June 1, 2017 Melanie Windridge

Southern lights spectacular

Aurora australis above the city of Dunedin, New Zealand.

Aurora australis above the city of Dunedin, New Zealand.

A coronal mass ejection caused good geomagnetic storms at the weekend, with particularly good sightings of the southern lights in New Zealand and Tasmania. Ian Griffin from Dunedin, New Zealand, shares some of his pictures of the aurora australis.

“These are images and timelapses I shot here in Dunedin on Sunday night during the Kp7 auroral event. Down here in New Zealand we are heading into winter, with the sun setting at around 5pm. With a good auroral event forecast, Sunday night (28th May) found me at my favourite observing spot in Papanui Inlet, on the Otago Peninsula (about a 5 minute drive from my house). I set up my cameras as the sun set, and almost immediately I could see a gorgeous green glow in the south. As the sky darkened, the aurora appeared to brighten and become more active, with some astoundingly beautiful green waves dancing across the sky.

By 7pm with a dark sky, the view from Papanui was majestic, with purple beams and two intense arcs of auroral activity dominating the view to the South. However, just about this time, clouds started to appear, and by 9pm my sky was completely covered.

Aurora over Papanui Inlet, New Zealand, with the clouds coming in.

Aurora over Papanui Inlet, New Zealand, with the clouds coming in.

With auroral activity still going on, I decided to drive down the Otago Peninsula towards the City of Dunedin in search of clear sky. Luckily as I drove down the Peninsula the sky began to clear and I could easily see the bright aurora above the city lights. This is where I did something completely out of character.

Normally with a bright aurora I try and find the darkest spot possible to get the best view of what’s going on. But on Sunday I thought “bugger this, I wonder if I can get some pictures from the City Centre”. So I headed to a lookout called Signal Hill in the middle of Dunedin (population 100,000) and was delighted to find a crowd of students from Otago University “oohing and ahhing” as the bright display danced in the sky above us. All in all a very memorable evening of aurora chasing!”

By Ian Griffin
Dunedin, New Zealand

Students watching the aurora at Signal Hill, Dunedin, New Zealand.

Students watching the aurora at Signal Hill, Dunedin, New Zealand.

The southern lights dancing above Dunedin, New Zealand.

The southern lights dancing above Dunedin, New Zealand.

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About the Author

Melanie Windridge Dr Melanie Windridge is a plasma physicist, speaker, writer… with a taste for adventure. She has a PhD in fusion energy and is Communications Consultant for fusion start-up Tokamak Energy, as well as working in education with the Ogden Trust, Anturus and Your Life. Melanie loves the mountains and believes science and exploration go hand in hand.

Dr Melanie Windridge

info 'at' melaniewindridge.co.uk
 @m_windridge /DrMelanieWindridge m_windridge