On the night of September 3 2012 we were treated to a mesmerizing display of the aurora australis in Tasmania, the southern lights. The aurora was low on the southern horizon, dancing just below the familiar stars of the Southern Cross – which puts a nice Southern Hemisphere stamp on this event which is far more commonly observed in the Northern Hemisphere, where it is known as the Aurora Borealis.
**click for larger view **
When to See the Aurora Australis
The Aurora occurs when charged particles erupt from the Sun and interact with the Earth’s magnetic field. These eruptions are known as “Coronal Mass Ejections (CME)” and although it is impossible to predict exactly when one of these will happen, once one occurs it is then reasonably easy to predict when the effects will be felt here on earth. Then it is a matter of hoping for clear skies, and getting out to your favourite clear sky location. At the moment we are fast approaching “solar maximum” meaning that activity on the Sun is at a peak and that CME’s are far more frequent than usual – meaning also that the likelihood of the Aurora appearing is far higher. A great site to check for news from the Sun is Space Weather.
Photographing the Aurora Australis
Photographing the Aurora requires a camera with manual control, ideally an SLR/DSLR. You absolutely must have a tripod, as long exposure will be required. These images were mostly 30 second exposures using ISO values ranging between 200~1600. The evening was well lit with a near to full moon, which if anything made the aurora less spectacular. A moonless night, with clear skies and an Aurora – is that too much to ask for next time For most of the evening the Aurora was relatively still, and was visible as a dull glow stretching across the sky. Every now and then the Aurora did what it does best, and shimmered and danced in a display not unlike silent fireworks. The colour to the naked eye was far less intense than what the camera recorded, although that could have been due to the brightness of the moon. Our shadows were clearly visible from the moon, see below…
The Aurora is definitely one of those things I have always wanted to see (and photograph!), and seeing it for the first time has just made me want to see more. Feel free to follow me on Twitter and/or Facebook, as I will share when an event is happening.
Aurora Australis in Tasmania Photo Gallery
NEW: Aurora Australis Tasmania page with links to all my aurora related posts, and other online references.