Northern lights defy predictions; large-scale display fails to materialize in Minnesota skies

It was more trick than treat for Minnesotans hoping for a Halloween weekend display of the northern lights late Saturday and early Sunday.

The northern lights are notoriously difficult to predict and this weekend was another example of that.

A solar flare erupted on Thursday and was expected to reach Earth on Saturday. NOAA's Space Weather prediction center in Boulder, Colo., issued a G3 geomagnetic storm watch for the weekend.

When the solar flare eruption happened, it resulted in a coronal mass ejection, or a large cloud of solar-charged particles headed toward Earth. These particles are what may amplify the northern lights.

But while all the conditions were right for a great northern lights display this weekend — as so often happens, the aurora defied predictions. While there were some reports of faint auroras visible across the Upper Midwest overnight, there was no large-scale, widely visible display late Saturday or early Sunday — to the disappointment of Minnesotans who sought out dark, clear viewing spots and scanned the northern sky.

There's a chance the northern lights could be visible on Sunday night, though parts of Minnesota may have mostly cloudy skies.

And a general increase in solar activity means there'll likely be more opportunities to view the northern lights during the long winter nights ahead.

NPR contributed to this report.

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