Bright aurora forecast to light up skies

Video: In 2016, NASA released some footage of what the auroras look like from the International Space Station. 

Update: Check out photos of Sunday night's aurora here.

The sky is set to light up early on Sunday evening, with a bright aurora forecast potentially as far north as Wellington.

The Kp rating, which estimates aurora activity, is currently at a 7.00 out of a possible 9.00 - so it's likely a good show will be put on tonight.

But for those who have never been aurora hunting before, Damien McNamara, director of the Space Weather Section at the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand, urges people to lower their expectations a tad.

"You see all the colourful pictures and you go to see them, but you don't actually see the colours," he told Newshub.

Aurora Australis Southern Lights (Damien McNamara / supplied)
A previous aurora (Damien McNamara / supplied)

"When you go out aurora hunting, what you'll see is actually a bright grey glow, it's not actually colourful."

Mr McNamara said the best locations to see the aurora are out of town and along the coastlines, facing south.

"This Kp 7 could be visible from Wellington if it goes off, it all depends on the weather in your location at the moment... I think there's quite a few favourable areas along the coastline with weather tonight," he said.

The Kp rating is updated hourly and can be seen on the Service Aurora website.

People who do head out should do so before the sun sets to scope out a good area, as well as bundling up warm and potentially bringing a hot drink in a thermos.

It's particularly important for novices to check out their location before it gets dark.

"You don't want to be going along the coastline to somewhere where you don't know you've been," he said.

"You're out in the middle of nowhere, away from populated areas, sometimes with no cellphone coverage. Be safe."

Aurora Australis Southern Lights (Damien McNamara / supplied)
A previous aurora (Damien McNamara / supplied)

Mr McNamara's other piece of advice is to be kind to other aurora hunters.

The darkness is crucial for people to get good photos, so if you're driving, dip your headlights, and if you're walking with a torch, keep it low and don't flash it in anyone's faces.

But people shouldn't be afraid to head out altogether.

"The aurora-hunting community is growing at an unprecedented rate," Mr McNamara said.

"It is a fun hobby and it can be addictive, but it can in some cases put people off really quickly if they're not using their senses."