Northern lights take unusual trip down south

By SETH BORENSTEIN | October 25, 2011 | 5:40 PM EDT

The northern lights shine over West Grand Traverse Bay near Traverse City, Mich., on Monday night, Oct. 24 2011. The lights, also known as aurora borealis in the northern hemisphere, are caused by charged particles striking the Earth's atmostphere. (AP Photo/Record-Eagle, Jan-Michael Stump)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A baffling solar storm pulled colorful northern lights unusually far south, surprising space weather experts.

TV stations in Georgia and Kentucky reported people calling about the sky show Monday night. And NASA posted a photo from Huntsville, Ala. Southerners normally don't get to see the vibrant red and green aurora borealis.

Officials at the federal Space Environment Center in Boulder, Colo., said they were surprised at the southern reach. The center monitors solar storms, which trigger auroras.

Space weather forecast chief Bob Rutledge said given the size of the solar storm that occurred last night, the lights probably shouldn't have been visible south of Iowa. Rutledge said the storm was unusual, its effects reaching Earth faster than forecast. The storm caused no damage to technology as it sometimes does.