Australian Geographic

How to find it

These factors are key to observing the southern lights, says Fred Watson.


Location: Head as far south as you can. Tasmania provides the best opportunit­ies, but Victoria, southern NSW, and the most southerly parts of SA and WA are occasional­ly treated to aurorae.

A clear horizon: So that your view isn’t obscured by trees or buildings, pick somewhere with a clear horizon, such as a south-facing coastline.

Avoid light pollution: The relatively low-intensity aurorae seen from our latitudes are easily drowned out by city lights. Choose a site far from artificial light sources and with no artificial sky-glow to the south.

Freedom from moonlight: Moonlight can also dilute an auroral display, so choose a time when the Moon’s phase is between the third quarter and new. Aurorae can be seen at any time during the night, but the best displays are often seen between 8pm and 2am. Long winter nights provide the best opportunit­ies.

Technology: Websites such as spaceweath­ or provide forecasts of auroral activity, and several Facebook pages offer aurora alerts. It’s worth practising with night-time landscape photograph­y to perfect the technique of recording low light-levels. Auroral colours can be subdued to the eye, but show up well in digital photograph­s.

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