Everything worked out the way it was supposed to for Minnesotans to see the brilliant display of the northern lights. Everything except for the northern lights, that is.
As someone who drove away from light pollution in the Twin Cities and slept in a car in an effort to see the dazzling hues around 4 a.m., I can confirm that the aurora borealis didn't live up to the hype.
Turns out Minnesota got skunked. So did Nebraska, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and pretty much everywhere else in the U.S. where there was a chance to see the light show thanks to a huge solar flare that had sent particles from a coronal mass ejection (CME) on the sun hurtling towards earth.
The X1-class, G3 magnetic storm that was forecast just didn't have the oomph like the experts thought it would. So what happened?
"A CME hit Earth's magnetic field on Oct. 31st at approximately 10:00 UT. The impact was weak--a far cry from the "big hit" we expected," says SpaceWeather.com. "What happened? It's possible that the bulk of the Oct. 28th CME missed our planet; after all, it was directed somewhat south of the sun-Earth line. Despite the feebleness of the impact, minor G1-class geomagnetic storms are still possible in the hours ahead."
Sad, because literally everything else worked out perfectly to give Minnesota a show for the ages. At 7:30 p.m. Saturday, the Space Weather Prediction Center said the best viewing time would be 4-7 a.m. Sunday, giving cloud cover associated with a passing cold front plenty of time to clear eastern Minnesota, which it did around 1 or 2 a.m.
The weaker-than-expected geomagnetic storm still gave Canada some brilliant northern lights, and Iceland really got the goods.
Minnesotans, like me, got nothing. But if you did sleep in your car or make a middle-of-the-night drive in an effort to see the northern lights, at least you have your pride. Or if you were really lucky, like Twitterer "Worship The Pig," you might've made friends with a raccoon.