Those in prime locations in Canada and the northern US can expect a spectacular sky show this week as a solar storm gives way to the most magical astrological phenomenon of all: the Northern Lights.
According to Space.com, the legendary Aurora Borealis could be visible low on the horizon in northern US states from Washington to Minnesota and parts of New England as early as Tuesday.
What exactly is a geomagnetic solar storm?
Over the weekend, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center issued a G2 (moderate) geomagnetic storm forecast for Tuesday. And yes, these geomagnetic storms are about as cool as they sound. They occur when there is a disturbance in the Earth’s magnetosphere and often increase the chance of catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights.
According to the SWPC, solar material from multiple coronal mass ejections caused this particular storm. These large expulsions of plasma from the Sun’s atmosphere were first observed on September 16.
Because the Northern Lights occur when electrically charged solar particles collide with Earth’s atmosphere, this CME of the Sun and the resulting geomagnetic storm makes for quite a spectacle.
While it’s unclear exactly when the lights will be visible, experts predict they could appear as early as Monday evening and last into Thursday.
Reward your inbox with the TPG Daily newsletter
Join over 700,000 readers for the latest news, in-depth guides and exclusive offers from the experts at TPG
Related: 10 Best Hotels to See the Northern Lights
Where can you see the Northern Lights this week?
For those hoping to see the legendary dancing lights, a wonderful tool to use is the SWPC’s Aurora 30 Minute Forecast, a short-term forecast of 30 to 90 minutes that indicates the location and intensity of the Northern Lights.
In terms of prime viewing, Canada and the northernmost US states (including but not limited to Alaska, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and New England) have the best chance of spotting the lights.
It’s ideal to keep yourself as far away from light pollution as possible and as close to the darkest sky you can find (even better if you’re near a dark sky park, a remote area or a national park), and of course a cloud-free sky gives you the best chances of seeing the show.
Related: Dreaming of space? Here are 8 tips to enjoy the night sky from Earth
Luckily for us, the sun is in a particularly active phase of its solar cycle this time, even if the sky doesn’t offer ideal conditions for viewing the Northern Lights. So there could be opportunities to catch a glimpse of this mysterious light up again soon.