August 26 was a goodnight for aurora chasing in Tasmania – perfectly clear skies, and a negative Bz lead to the appearance of the southern lights over Eaglehawk Neck and the beautiful Tessellated Pavements.
Aurora Chasing Tasmania – The Southern Lights
The afternoon began with regular checks on the strength of the Solar Wind, and the all important Bz component – which indicates whether the magnetic polarity of the incoming stream is north or south (it must be south for a successful aurora chase!).
The Tessellated Pavements are a place I normally visit to photograph the sunrise, but I have been keen to capture an aurora here for a while now. Overall, the moonlight was a little too bright for tonights show, but all the same, a brief procession of pink beams erupted over the Tasman Peninsula and I was lucky enough to capture it in some timelapse footage (coming soon!)
The Pros & Cons of Moonlight
The moon is an incredibly bright source of light when undertaking a high ISO night shoot of the relatively faint aurora light. The scene catured can basically look like day under a growing moon – see below. For aurora photography, a little bit of moonlight can be wonderful in throwing light over the scene, but too much moonlight and you run the risk of washing out your aurora too.
There was one other very special aspect to this shoot, but the details of that will remain secret for a few more days – all will be revealed next week
EDIT Sept 2: The special news is that this shoot will feature on the ABC’s 7:30 tonight! Please tune in, should be a great segment There is already a special on the Southern Lights on the ABC site.