Tonight, people in certain areas of the United States may be able to see the aurora borealis, due to a geomagnetic storm warning issued by the Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC). Typically, the lights are only visible to Americans who live in Alaska but the agency predicts that the natural light display also known as the northern lights, will be visible in Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and northern Maine from 4 to 7 p.m. EST and then again from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.
The storm warning, which is classified as G1 (meaning it’s minor), is a result of a coronal hole high-speed solar wind stream. And faster solar winds increase the visibility of the northern lights, which are formed by particles from the sun colliding in the atmosphere and are often only visible in Alaska, Canada, and northern Europe.
The G1 Watch was extended; now in effect for both 9 & 10 November UTC_days due to CH HSS effects. Visit https://t.co/1I27XMj63k for more information and visit https://t.co/4CNTc1IkKt for latest forecasts, discussions, and updates. pic.twitter.com/NClgoj47W7
— NOAA Space Weather (@NWSSWPC) November 7, 2018
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), who issued the warning, any parts of the United States that are higher than the green line on the above map, which they shared to Twitter on Wednesday, can catch a glimpse of the aurora borealis.
While there are two different time frames when the lights will be visible, experts caution that the skies might not be dark enough during the 4 to 7 p.m. window. For the best view, “you need very clear skies, a good view of the northern horizon (no tree, buildings, or hills), and it needs to be dark,” explained a SWPC representative, suggesting that people who live further away from large cities will also have a better chance of seeing the lights.
If you don’t live in one of the states where the northern lights will be visible tonight, you can still watch from home—the Canadian Space Agency has a live stream of the lights on their website here.