The aurora could be visible as far south as New York, Wisconsin, and Washington state on Monday, thanks to a geomagnetic storm

As seen in Iceland, the Aurora borealis. Inglfur Bjargmundsson/Getty Images
On Monday, people could see the aurora borealis 'New York to Wisconsin to Washington'.

According to NOAA forecasters, Earth could be hit by a mild geomagnetic storm.

These storms are caused by solar particles interacting with the planet's magnet field.

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Northern Americans should look up Monday night at the sky - you might see the northern lights.

The aurora borealis is usually found in close proximity to Earth's magnetic North Pole, in the Arctic. Geomagnetic storms are when the sun emits more energy and charged particles to bombard Earth's magnetic field. This can cause the aurora's drift to the south.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, tonight could see a moderately strong geomagnetic storm that could cause auroras to be visible "as low" as New York to Wisconsin and Washington.

NOAA's aurora forecast provides real-time updates on how far south the aurora borealis is visible in the northern part of the hemisphere. This allows you to determine if the lights are visible near your location. It also shows how far the aurora australis (or southern lights) can be seen in the southern part of the hemisphere.

The best time to see the northern lights is between 9:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. local. Head to dark areas away from cities.

On January 23, 2012, the northern lights illuminate the skies above the Susitna River, Alaska. Michael Dinneen/AP

The aurora oval, also known as the auroral area, is an area that lies between 60 and 75 degrees north latitude. This is where you can usually see the northern lights. Because this area receives almost 24 hours of daylight from April to August, they are most visible in winter. However, astronauts aboard the International Space Station often get spectacular views of the aurora.

Storms such as the one forecast for Monday will expand this zone, extending it further south.

The northern and southern lights look almost like green ribbons in a sky, but they can occasionally be dotted with pink, red, or blue colors. This phenomenon is caused by charged particles from our sun striking our planet. These particles are channeled by the Earth's magnet field to the poles, where they interact with the particles in the atmosphere.

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Although some of this solar wind floods the atmosphere of the planet, other times the sun releases a strange surge of particles or super-hot plasma known as a coronal Mass ejection.

Artist's rendering of the coronal mass ejection hitting a planet. NASA

These geomagnetic storms can disrupt the operation of satellites or the electric infrastructure at the ground. The potential impact of solar wind on our magnetic field is stronger the more it interacts. NOAA forecasts that Monday will see weak fluctuations in power grids, as well as a slight impact on satellite orientations.

NOAA assigns a rating to geomagnetic storms based on the amount of disturbance they cause. One is a minor disturbance that impacts satellites only, while five could cause major disruptions that can disrupt electrical transformers and blackouts.

Monday's storm has been rated as a two. These storms are about 600 in number every eleven years.

The further south the aurora moves, the higher the category. A hurricane rated five could take people as far south and Texas as Texas to see the northern lights.

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