You can see the Northern Lights better with your cell phone!

In addition to their stunning visual effects, the appeal of the Northern Lights lies in their unpredictability. Even with the most advanced technology, it's difficult for forecasters to determine exactly when and where the colorful spectacle in the sky will be visible until shortly before the show begins. Most importantly, there's the weather; in fact, too many clouds can make what should be a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle spend hours in the bitter cold for no apparent reason.

While there's nothing you can do about the weather, if you happen to be in an area where the Northern Lights are expected to be visible, but you can't see anything (or can barely see what's in the distance), then your cell phone may be able to help, according to one of the experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC).

How to watch the Northern Lights on your cell phone

To clarify, you can't go outside on any clear night anywhere in the world and take an image of the Northern Lights with your cell phone. This only works if auroras are predicted to be possible in your area or slightly further north.

Brent Gordon, head of SWPC's Space Weather Service, said advances in smartphone technology have improved their ability to capture images of the northern lights. "We've seen some amazing aurora images through recent events as far south as Texas, and even a few in Central America that were not visible to the naked eye," he said at a media briefing in May. 10.

No special skills required: just point your phone at the sky and take a picture. "You might be surprised when you view that image later - there might be a nice little present there for you," Gordon says.

That said, the goal here isn't to create a premium photo of the aurora display. In this case, your phone is more like a telescope than a camera, helping you see things you otherwise wouldn't.

Why can cell phones see the Northern Lights when we can't? Simply put, "Cell phones are much better at capturing light than our eyes," Gordon says. "Because they're better adapted to visible wavelengths than our eyes are, that's how we see these southern aurora images."