Aurora Australis: New Zealand treated yet again to spectacular Southern Lights

The aurora was visible from Mt John Observatory, near Lake Tekapo.
The aurora was visible from Mt John Observatory, near Lake Tekapo. Photo credit: Twitter / @karenrpollard / Fraser Gunn

Aurora chasers were treated yet again to a spectacular display of the Aurora Australis on Saturday night.

Following a stunning display of the Southern Lights that lit up the skies last weekend, the Aurora Australis was visible again in Southland, Otago, and southern Canterbury, much to the excitement of photographers and astronomers.

"Fantastic aurora last night that we've been able to witness in New Zealand," one person wrote on Twitter, also sharing a timelapse of yellow and pink lights dancing across the sky.

The University of Otago's geomagnetic activity forecaster said levels got up to 5/9 in areas around Dunedin, which is visible for good cameras with a long exposure and may be visible by eye. The further south you head, the more likely it is you can see the Aurora Australis.

But if you were one of the more than 250 Kiwis onboard a special 'flight to the lights' charter plane, then you would've had a front-row seat to the spectacular light display.

The 10-hour round trip Air New Zealand flight took off from Christchurch on Saturday night and travelled south towards Antarctica. It circled above the Southern Ocean before returning in the early hours on Sunday.

Of those onboard was Otago Museum director Ian Griffin, who shared several photos and a timelapse from the flight.

"This is so cool. Timelapse of the first part of tonight's Air New Zealand charter flight to the southern lights from a camera on the flight deck. Wowser! The Aurora Australis visible before it got dark," he tweeted.

Also among the aurora hunters was microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles, who said she felt privileged to be on board with the astrophotographers.

"We had an amazing night, spending >6 hrs flying around the Aurora Australis. It wasn't bright enough to see the colours by eye, but the shapes were amazing."

Auroras are caused by solar flares from the sun that hurtle through space. When this solar storm approaches the Earth, some of the energy and small particles travel down the magnetic field lines at the north and south poles into the atmosphere.

Once there, the particles interact with gases, which then results in auroras. Oxygen gives off green and red light while nitrogen glows blue and purple.