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TRAVEL & LEISURE

ICYMI Aurora Australis Lit Up Australian and New Zealand Skies This Week

The likes of Tasmania, Dunedin and other lucky locations landed their own version of the Northern Lights.
By Jasmine Crittenden
May 31, 2017
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By Jasmine Crittenden
May 31, 2017
  shares

Stargazers in Tasmania and New Zealand are happy they didn't skip town for Vivid last weekend. On Sunday night, Aurora Australis made a pretty dramatic appearance, filling the horizon with a spectrum of light.

Also known as the Southern Lights, Aurora Australis tends to show up when a coronal mass ejection (CME) occurs. To cut a long story short, a CME happens when the sun releases a bunch of plasma filled with electrons and protons (the bits inside atoms, Year 7). This plasma travels 150 million kilometres before hitting the Earth's magnetic field at a speed of six million kilometres per hour. The result is a wild geomagnetic storm. As the atoms slow down, they send out light of various colours, which we see most easily at the North and South Poles, where the atmosphere is thinnest. In the North Pole, the aurora is called Aurora Borealis.

Like earthquakes, auroras are rated according to their power. While most rate around 1 or 2 kp (out of a possible 9), Sunday night's hit 7, making it particularly spectacular. It's difficult to predict when the next Aurora Australis will appear — your best bet is to keep an eye on the official Facebook page, where hopeful activity is reported.

If you're keen to cop an eyeful, then you'll need to head as far south as possible. It's also a good idea to get away from towns and cities, so light pollution doesn't corrupt your view. In Australia, that means making tracks to Tassie. On social media, epic photos of Sunday night's show came in from Devonport and Bruny Island. However, the lights were also seen as far north as New South Wales, including in Merimbula, Bawley Point and Williamstown.

Meanwhile, in New Zealand, the place to be was the South Island. Over the weekend, Aurora Australis was seriously impressive in Lake Te Anau, Dunedin, Invercargill, Waipapa Point and Queenstown, among other spots.

Here's a few otherworldly Instagrams to give you an idea:

Top image: Ben (Flickr).

Published on May 31, 2017 by Jasmine Crittenden

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