Chance to see Aurora Australis this week

Photo: Tourism New Zealand
Photo: Tourism New Zealand

SKY gazers may be in for a treat this week, with increased solar activity bringing the potential for dramatic light displays to occur in skies over southern parts of the country.

The heightened chance of aurora activity is expected to occur from Wednesday and into Thursday this week.

Bureau of Meteorology space weather scientist Richard Marshall said while it can be tricky to have all the right conditions come together to spot aurora, those along Australia’s southern coastline will have the greatest chance.

“While the majority of aurora australis sightings in our region happen in Tasmania, there have been sightings in Western Australia,” he said.

“Our last reported sighting in Perth occurred in 2004 from Perth Observatory.”

Dr Zahra Bouya said the colourful light shows are relatively rare for this time of the solar cycle and are due to a number of solar eruptions from the sun’s visible surface.

“We are currently monitoring two coronal mass ejections (CMEs), which are large clouds of plasma that are ejected from the sun and travel at high speeds through space,” she said.

“They are both relatively slow moving and our model predictions have them passing over us on May 15 and 16.

“When this material reaches Earth, most of it is deflected by the planet’s magnetic field.

“But as the CME passes over the Earth its magnetic field may connect with ours allowing huge amounts of energy to be transferred to our magnetic field, generating geomagnetic storms that can last for two or three days and produce dramatic auroras over successive nights.”

Dr Bouya said while there is a greater chance that aurora Australis enthusiasts may witness the spectacular show of lights this week, it is never guaranteed.

“To see the aurora, you’ll need a very dark and clear night so early morning, after the moon sets, between 3am and 5am, is best over the coming days,” she said.

“Headlands or a dark beach are usually the best viewing spots.”

For more information about aurora Australis visit the Bureau’s Blog or watch the Ask:BOM What is an aurora video below: