Stargazers across the United States are in for a very rare treat from 4pm EST tonight, thanks to a minor geometric storm.
Aurora sightings in the US are rare but can be much more likely when geomagnetic storms occur. And according to the Space Weather Prediction Center, beginning tonight, a Grade 1 geometric storm will make its way to North America, bringing with it a rare opportunity to peep the Northern Lights from up to 11 U.S. states and parts of southern Canada.
It's an extra rare opportunity, too. Hard to spot at the best of times (even in remote parts of Scandinavia), scientists have predicted sightings would be at an all-time low this year, due to the sun entering the Solar Minimum phase. This means lights will be dimmer and occur less frequently over the next decade, with 2019 and 2020 predicted as the lowest point for aurora sightings. So if you're in the Aurora Borealis' path tonight, don't miss a glimpse of nature's light show.
When to See the Northern Lights this Weekend
Geometric storms are measured from Grade 1 to Grade 5, with G1 being the most minor and G5 accounting for the largest and fiercest storms. Scientists have predicted a 50% to 60% chance we're getting a minor Grade 1 level storm at approximately 4pm EST tonight and then again at 10pm EST.
Where to See Them
“High” latitude areas are your best bets. The Northern Lights will be most visible to those in Alaska, Montana, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Washington, Wisconsin, Michigan, northern Maine, and potentially parts of northern New York. Canada’s southernmost territories may also be treated to an aurora show.
As always, ensure you're away from city lights and in a dark spot for the best chance. Happy hunting, stargazers.