Aurora Aus­tralis lights up night sky

Auckland City Harbour News - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - STAFF RE­PORTER

Stargaz­ers in dif­fer­ent parts of the coun­try had a rare treat at the week­end, spot­ting the Aurora Aus­tralis light­ing up the night sky on two con­sec­u­tive nights.

The South­ern Lights were spot­ted from Auck­land, Can­ter­bury and the Otago Penin­sula on Satur­day. They then made an ap­pear­ance in Welling­ton on Sun­day, and were again spied in the sky over Can­ter­bury.

Pho­tog­ra­pher Lar­ryn Rae spot- ted the lights in Auck­land.

He’d pre­vi­ously pho­tographed the Aurora, but said Satur­day night’s made ‘‘the last one look like play school’’.

What made the Aurora par­tic­u­larly un­usual was its light beams, which Rae didn’t be­lieve were nor­mally spot­ted from Auck­land.

Otago Mu­seum di­rec­tor Dr Ian Grif­fin cap­tured pho­tos of the Aurora on the Otago Penin­sula, on Satur­day.

The rainbow colours were a ‘‘truly gor­geous dis­play’’ caused by a ge­o­mag­netic storm - the re­sult of a large hole in the sun’s sur­face.

Grif­fin, the for­mer head of pub­lic out­reach at Nasa’s Space Te­le­scope Sci­ence In­sti­tute, shared some tips for spot­ting them.

‘‘Get away from city lights, find a place with a good view to the south and keep your fin­gers crossed,’’ he said.

The Aurora could be seen ‘‘sur­pris­ingly fre­quently’’ in New Zealand, es­pe­cially from south­ern parts of the South Is­land.

‘‘I’ve lived here in Dunedin now for about four years and I’ve seen it on over 100 [oc­ca­sions], I think it’s about the 159th now.

‘‘So, on av­er­age, it’s once ev­ery cou­ple of weeks,’’ Grif­fin said.

Statis­tics for Christchurch were not as favourable be­cause the city was fur­ther north.

‘‘But hav­ing said that you can see it quite a lot from Christchurch . . . You need to have a com­bi­na­tion of clear skies and the Aurora go­ing off at the same time.

‘‘[Satur­day] night’s dis­play was a pretty spe­cial one, it was seen as far north as Auck­land,’’ he said.

See­ing an Aurora from Auck­land was ‘‘quite rare’’.

‘‘If you go back through his­tory, it’s once ev­ery five years or so.

‘‘Hav­ing said that, some­times you might get two or three in a year and then one not for for 15 or 20 years.

He said see­ing the Aurora in Auck­land was ‘‘pretty spe­cial’’.

Lar­ryn Rae cap­tured the Aurora Aus­tralis from the Huia Head­land back in March.

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