OKLAHOMA CITY -- Anyone who missed the rare appearance of the northern lights over Oklahoma last month should keep an eye on the sky over the next few nights.

The northern lights, which are known by the scientific name aurora borealis, happen when disturbances on the sun affect Earth's magnetic field. As the name implies, they're a common sight in northern latitudes, but it takes an unusual event on the sun to make them visible in more southern latitudes.

After being relatively quiet for years, the sun seems to be waking up. It sent out a huge coronal mass ejection in late October, causing the northern lights to be visible much further south than usual.

Many Oklahomans who were outside on the night of October 24, 2011, saw the rare show.

Astronomers are excited, because a huge new sunspot has appeared on the sun and has sent out another coronal mass ejection. It was on part of the sun that wasn't facing Earth at the time, so it won't change the northern lights.

However, as the sun turns toward Earth any new coronal mass ejections would have a greater chance of creating spectacular northern lights again, and making them visible in Oklahoma.

According to Wikipedia, French astronomer and philosopher Pierre Gassendi the named the aurora borealis in 1621 after Aurora, the Roman goddess of dawn, and Boreas, the Greek name for the north wind.

Generally, the best time to try to see the northern lights is from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., and it's best to be out in the country away from manmade lights.