21 March 1990: Ottumwa, Iowa

For whatever reasons, I missed the great display the previous March. It must have been weather related, because starting in January 1989, during my sophomore year at the University of Iowa, I regularly listened to shortwave radio station WWV after dinner every night to get the daily geomagnetic report. I still have the written record of the two-year period I kept track of this, and I was aware of the severe geomagnetic storm on 13 March 1989.

Fortunately, the next year I was at home during Spring Break and caught a major storm. The Boulder K-index reached 7 at 3 UT, and was probably higher at 6 UT. I could swear that I have some written record of when I started watching and taking photos, but I can't locate it. However, I seem to recall that it was around midnight local time and comparing the stars in the photos to a computer program seems to indicate a time around 5-7 UT. The peak of the display lasted for nearly an hour.

The photos feature some vivid red colors, and match the intensity of the display visually quite well. All photos were taken with a 50mm f/1.7 lens set either at f/1.7 or f/2.8, and Kodak Ektar 1000 film (at the time the Ektar series was the finest grain film on the market at a particuarly speed, and was the precursor to the Royal Gold series). The integration times were probably about 15 seconds. I took the photos from my Mom and Stepdad's backyard on the north side of Ottumwa, Iowa. As you can see, my horizon wasn't very clear, and in addition I didn't take into consideration a poorly placed phone line.

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