More exciting than a sunny weekend after a bomb cyclone full of Seattle rain: The northern lights might be making a Halloween appearance. The Space Weather Prediction Center from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—say that five times fast—issued a strong (G3) geomagnetic storm watch for Saturday and Sunday.
What does that mean? Nature might be dressing up for Halloween exactly like my five-year-old niece: in a burst of color. The sun spat out a big solar flare and Coronal Mass Ejection on Thursday, which should hit the earth on Saturday and affect the atmosphere through Sunday. NOAA notes that "impacts to our technology from a G3 storm are generally nominal," which sounds like something a minor character says at the beginning of a superhero movie and turns out to be totally wrong. But it might also drive the aurora borealis over the Northeast, upper Midwest, and Washington state.
The northern lights are a tricky phenomenon, given that they are caused by solar activity but show up in the night sky near the poles—and are generally difficult to predict. When they do show, the lights can appear as anything from a slight haze to a multicolor, dancing show in the sky.
So while there are no guarantees, there are a few ways to increase your chances of spotting the northern lights if they do come out to play. First, get away from city lights (and clouds if they do settle in); you'll want a clear view to the north. It helps that we're in the waning phases of the moon, so there should be little additional light from up high. Start scanning the sky just after sunset—this is a reason to celebrate that sunset has slipped before 6pm, oof—and check NOAA's 30-minute aurora forecast.
The northern lights are celebrated around the world as a natural phenomenon but also as a good omen or sign of ancestors come back to visit. Photographers use various shutter speeds to capture them, so don't be surprised if the in-person experience looks a little different from professional photos. And bundle up—even without the rain, the weekend should prove chilly at night.