'Northern Lights' disappoint as solar energy weaker than expected

Those who were eager for a rare chance to see the aurora borealis from Maryland were disappointed as the phenomenon known as the "Northern Lights" did not appear this far south.

Solar weather is, in general, difficult for scientists to predict. While they detected a significant solar flare on Thursday, sending charged particles in what is known as a coronal mass ejection, when they could effect Earth and how significantly is not always clear until their arrival is imminent.

Astronomy enthusiasts were abuzz over when the light show might begin, and where. Given the strength of the solar flare and expected intensity of the coronal mass ejection, it was thought the lights would be visible as far south as the mid-Atlantic.

Early estimates were that the solar particles might arrive by 8 p.m., later adjusted to sometime during a span from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m., according to AccuWeather.com.

But once they did arrive, the aurora was only visible as far south as Vermont, Minnesota and Michigan.

"The energy that reached Earth wasn't quite as strong as we had hoped," Mark Paquette, an AccuWeather meteorologist who specializes in astronomy, told the Morning Call in Allentown, Pa. "The geomagnetic storm didn't behave the way we thought it would."

View photos from the show shared with AccuWeather and with SpaceWeather.com.

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