Auckland photographer captures 'dream come true' moment of aurora and bioluminescence in same picture

Photographer Matthew Davison captured this photo from Auckland's Karioitahi Beach at 11:30pm on Monday.
Photographer Matthew Davison captured this photo from Auckland's Karioitahi Beach at 11:30pm on Monday. Photo credit: Supplied

A Kiwi cameraman has captured a "dream come true" moment, getting an aurora and bioluminescence show in the same picture in Auckland overnight. 

Photographer Matthew Davison told Newshub he has taken photos of auroras around the world for the last decade, but this was just the second time in Auckland he's seen one.

"My ambition has always been to try and capture them [aurora and bioluminescence] together in the same shot and I've been trying for probably the last decade or longer. So to actually get the shot and for it to happen last night, I guess is a dream come true as a photographer," he told Newshub.

Davison headed to Auckland's Karioitahi Beach at around 11pm, but his first picture left him disappointed. 

"I headed down to the beach and took a couple of photos and saw absolutely nothing, so a bit disappointing at first," he told Newshub. 

But after waiting for about 30 minutes, Davison said the sight he saw was incredible and it was like "nature had flipped a switch". 

Just when he thought it couldn't get any better, he started noticing blue light illuminating from the water. 

"I started noticing a bit of blue appearing on the waves and I wasn't sure if it was just the moonlight that was illuminating," he said.

"But then for a period of about five minutes, the sea suddenly turned blue and put on an incredible bioluminescence show just at the time the aurora was at its brightest. So it was basically a once-in-a-lifetime photograph to see both a strong aurora and a very, very strong bioluminescent show happening at the very same time." 

Davison said the aurora was visible for two to three hours but the bioluminescence was only on show for about 10 minutes.  

Stardome astronomer Rob Davison said last night's aurora has been described as the "best for years".  

He told Newshub auroras in New Zealand are not "super uncommon", but for it to reach the North Island and make it up to Auckland meant it had to be "especially strong". 

"When you have particularly strong solar wind, particles being blown out by the sun towards Earth, they get captured by Earth's magnetic field, pushed to the poles and then they excite gases in the atmosphere, mostly oxygen, and then that gas emits these specific colours of light," Rob said when describing what an aurora is and how it occurs.  

He told Newshub it's unclear whether Kiwis would be able to see another Aurora on Tuesday evening but said a lot if it comes down to chance. 

"Seeing aurora in general is very often the case of the right place, right time and a bit of luck. So you might have a really good solar forecast and the potential for a good bright aurora is there, but exactly how it interacts with a magnetic field and the atmosphere and just timing, you do need a bit of luck," he explained.  

"You might be up all night and you get just a short period of really good aurora or it could go on for several hours." 

For any stargazers looking to see an aurora, Rob said the key is to get away from as much light pollution as possible.