Look to the sky Sunday night, you might see the northern lights

Northern lights in the middle of July?
Author:
Updated:
Original:

The northern lights are often thought of as a winter-only phenomenon. But Minnesotans and people all across the northern U.S. will have a chance to see them in the middle of July.

The National Weather Service expects a moderate geomagnetic storm Sunday night into Monday morning. Unlike the storms we usually get in the summer, you don't have to worry about taking cover for this one. It's all up in space and might result in an aurora borealis.

People all over the state should be able to see it. A map from the NWS says people in the southern half of the state – and even the northern half of Iowa – could have a pretty good show.

How to watch

First of all, you want to get far, far away from any city lights. The darker the sky is, the better your chance of seeing the colorful skies.

Plan on watching between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. According to space.com, that's generally the most active period. Although auroras can happen at any time.

You can also click here to see current geomagnetic activity. There's a map showing where the aurora is visible, as well as future forecasts.

You'll probably notice something called a Kp index popping up a lot. Basically, the higher that number (it goes up to nine) the further south you'll be able to see the lights. You can get into the technicalities of Kp numbers here.

Why is this happening in the summer?

Auroras actually happen year-round.

It's just that they're easier to see in the winter, The Aurora Zone explains. In the winter, it gets dark earlier and stays dark later. Which means there's plenty of nighttime to see the lights – especially way up north – think Alaska and Canada – where it's constantly dark in the winter.

So while January to March are generally the most popular months for aurora watching, you could still get lucky and see something during the summer months. You just can't go too far north. Because those areas that were extra dark in the winter are now extra sunny in the summer.

Next Up

Related