July 16, 2017 6:16 pm
Updated: July 16, 2017 6:20 pm

Eyes to the skies! Northern lights visible tonight in parts of southern Canada

WATCH: Northern lights spectacle possible in GTA on Sunday

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Sunday night tends to be associated with downcast and gloomy thoughts, but tonight could bring a brilliant and memorable end to the weekend for some lucky folks in parts of southern Canada.

The northern lights are expected to make a dazzling appearance, and people in the Greater Toronto Area, Stratford, Guelph and Orangeville are in with a chance of catching a glimpse.

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Also known as aurora borealis, the rare and spectacular light show is the result of a coronal mass ejection – a huge explosion of plasma and magnetic field from the sun’s corona – detected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) early Friday.

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However, if you’re hoping to take in the lights from downtown Toronto or any other dense urban area, think again – auroras are best seen in clear and dark skies unhindered by the light pollution of urban areas, says The Weather Network meteorologist Scott Sutherland.

He recommends heading north of Stratford, Guelph and Orangeville, and says the shores of Georgian Bay make for particularly splendid viewing.

“Provincial parks are an excellent resource for skywatching, even if you have to stick to the parking lot at night,” Sutherland said.

As for timing, the geomagnetic storm is predicted to move from minor to moderate levels between 8 p.m. and 2 a.m. ET, with a slight possibility of jumping up to “strong,” which would expand the area of visibility.

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But viewing the aurora takes a combination of patience, timing and luck.

“Auroras are also notorious for being random and flighty. Sometimes they can appear faint, only to be seen with long-exposure photography, while other times they can be bright and vibrant to the naked eye, and they can appear and disappear quite suddenly,” Sutherland said.

To view the auroras, avoid all sources of bright light such as streetlights, camera flashes and cellphone screens, and look up and to the north, he recommends.

If you’re hoping to gaze at the northern lights in awe, make sure you head out early enough to give your eyes 30 to 40 minutes to adjust to the dark – else you might miss out on the greatest light show on Earth while it’s unfolding right above you.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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