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Extremely Brilliant Southern Lights Display Entices Aurora Hunters in New Zealand

The aurora australis is always more evident in the skies of New Zealand and Australia

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Sadaf Hasan
Sadaf Hasan
Aspiring reporter covering trending topics

NEW ZEALAND: The lure of unusually vivid southern light views in New Zealand has driven aurora hunters to spend hours driving through the night trying to photograph the “elusive” sight, and the number of social media groups dedicated to swapping tips is increasing. 

In the southern hemisphere’s fall and winter, which begins in March, the aurora australis is always more evident in the skies of New Zealand and Australia. However, this month, according to analysts, the aurora australis has been more prominent than usual.

 Auroras—breathtaking light shows in the night sky—can be seen when sunspots erupt and cause solar storms that send solar material hurtling towards Earth.

“Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen some really, really good auroras,” an astronomer and the director of the Otago Museum, Ian Griffin, says.

“Around this time of year, near the equinoxes, the sun’s magnetic field and the Earth’s magnetic field line up in such a way that if there is a solar storm, the materials fall down into the Earth’s magnetic field very easily,” continues Griffin.

The southern lights are typically more visible from New Zealand’s South Island, but recently, the light display was so intense that it could be seen as far north as Auckland on the North Island.

James O’Dea, who resides in the South Island town of Culverden, has been pursuing aurora-chasing for the past two years after joining what he described as a growing group of enthusiasts.

“It becomes a bit of an addiction, really, because you’re always watching out for when the next aurora might be,” says O’Dea. He and his pals use apps to get notifications about when they might be able to see the aurora, and they rely on weather maps to locate spots with clear skies for photography.

“I have a few friends that will travel down from the North Island; they’ll go jump on a plane just to fly out to see it,” O’Dea says, adding that one of the allures of aurora photography is the opportunity to witness something that cannot be seen by the human eye. 

Last Friday, in one of the few areas of the South Island that were not clouded over, O’Dea reported seeing breathtaking views of the aurora australis in Kaikura, a coastal village north of Christchurch.

The only barrier to photographing the sight was the light pollution, some of which was caused by the 30 other tourists who were using their phones to capture the sight nearby.

However, Griffin, the astronomer, notes that with 5 million people living in a country the size of Britain, there are “many” locations that are sufficiently dark to see spectacular auroras, especially south of Christchurch on the South Island, at any position where there is no bright city light.

Griffin said that because the sun’s cycle lasts about 11 years, auroras will likely be more visible in New Zealand’s night skies until a time of solar maximum, which will happen sometime before 2026, allowing aurora-hunters a few more years to perfect their shots.

Also Read: A Solar Storm Showcased Pink Auroras in Norway


  • Sadaf Hasan
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    Aspiring reporter covering trending topics

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