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southern lights tasman island

Southern Lights over Tasman Island

Well this was unexpected – on our recent hike out to Cape Pillar we caught the Southern Lights over Tasman Island! In my previous post I mentioned we got clouded out after our sunset/dusk shoot, but ever the optimist, we decided to get up early just in case – and then this happened:

The southern lights over Tasman Island

Pre dawn light show – the southern lights over Tasman Island from the Three Capes track hike

The light show started out quite faintly which gave us time to find a nice vantage point – not the simplest task in complete darkness on 200 metre high clifftops!! We eventually found this great outlook to Tasman Island with the cliffs of Cape Pillar either side and settled in for a pre-dawn light show like no other.

Very faint beams were visible in camera early on

Very faint beams were visible in camera early on

To begin with there were very faint pink colours appearing in camera – and only the faintest movement of light visible to the naked eye.

southern lights over Tasman Island

The beams gradually became more noticeable as did the glow on the horizon.

Zodiacal Lights Too?

I don’t often shoot astro-panoramas, but this morning I decided to give it a crack – thinking a bit more of Cape Pillar in the shot could be good. As well as Cape Pillar, I also captured another light phenomenon – the zodiacal light, seen below as the white glow to the left (east). The zodiacal light is visible at the equinoxes ie late March and late September and a quick google search informs me it is in fact sunlight reflecting off dust in the inner solar system (read more here).

Zodiacal lights and southern lights over Tasman Island

Panorama of not just the southern lights but also the zodiacal light to the left (east)

By this stage the aurora had gotten quite strong. The beams were visible to the eye, but it was gradually getting caught up in the dawn twilight too. It was time to head off for our sunrise shot.

Dawn staring to light up the eastern horizon as the aurora dances

Dawn staring to light up the eastern horizon as the aurora dances


Early morning aurora over Tasman Island

Dawn twilight really starting to take over now


Thanks to Mark for this shot!

A big shout out to Mark too for this shot of me in the dark lining up these shots 🙂

three capes track hike tasmania
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About Luke

Luke O'Brien runs a stall at Hobart's popular Salamanca Market every Saturday where his prints and cards are available for purchase. Follow Luke's photographic adventures on Twitter at @lukeobrienphoto, at his Facebook page or by subscribing to his email newsletter.