Aurora Australis Shines Across Australian Skies & New South Wales

5th Dec 2023
Aurora Australis Shines Across Australian Skies & New South Wales

On 1st December, Aurora Australis “sparkles” across Australian skies, captivating shutterbugs and stargazers alike. The light show was seen widely across Victoria, Tasmania, southern Western Australia, parts of South Australia, and even in far western New South Wales, offering enthusiasts a rare opportunity to capture this mesmerizing phenomenon on camera, fostering a wave of social media shares. It’s rare to see an aurora in central inland parts, so those in New South Wales were in for a treat.

What’s Aurora Australis?

Aurora australis, also called the Southern Lights or Southern Polar Lights, is the counterpart to the Aurora borealis in the southern hemisphere. Displaying in the sky as a luminous curtain, sheet, or diffuse glow, it commonly exhibits shades of green, occasionally appearing in red or other hues.

Like its northern counterpart, the aurora australis is most intense within an oval region centred on the south magnetic pole. The phenomenon results from collisions between energetic electrons and, at times, protons with atoms and molecules in the upper atmosphere. The high energies of these electrons are attained through acceleration by solar wind magnetic fields and the Earth’s magnetic field. Although the underlying motions are complex, the electrons essentially spiral around the Earth’s magnetic field lines and make contact near the points where these lines become vertical.

Aurora Australis
Credit: Mark Polsen PhotographyMitiamo, Vic.

When can you see Aurora Australis?

Typically observed during cooler months, these mesmerizing light rings thrive in March and September when Earth’s magnetic field aligns with solar winds. While often visible from Antarctic regions, Tasmania, and southern coastlines, a recent sighting extended its brilliance across widespread areas—from inland NSW to southern WA.

Aurora in Australia
Credit: Robbie Moles Photography – Mt Wellington, Tas.

Is the aurora australis rare?

The incredible natural phenomenon is described by Dr. Jeanne Young from the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) as “One of nature’s most spectacular visual phenomena: bright lights dancing across the night’s sky”. Despite the unexpected timing and widespread visibility, the BOM confirms this wasn’t an anomaly. Scientists foresee more displays due to heightened solar winds. Yet, predicting these celestial spectacles remains challenging.

Aurora Australis Shines Across Australian Skies
Credit: Jim Kerrie Tassie – Primrose Sands, Tas.

Dr. Jeanne Young highlights the rarity of witnessing an aurora but assures, “You won’t be disappointed.”

Can I see Aurora in Australia?

To maximize your chances, seek outdoor spots with minimal light pollution, offering an unobstructed southern view. Bright displays typically illuminate the sky for one to three hours, peaking between 10 PM and 2 AM.

For those eager to witness the Southern Lights, the BOM issues aurora watch notices to aid enthusiasts in their quest. While the solar storms governing these displays are unpredictable, the potential for future auroras promises a stunning experience for those fortunate enough to catch a glimpse.

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