New Zealand skies likely to light up with rare Southern Lights, Aurora Australis

News 15/05/2019

Get set for an epic free show tonight NZ - especially if you live in the south

You lucky buggers in Dunedin, Stewart Island or the south coast of Wellington could be in for a rare sight tonight.

The southern lights, cousin of the famous northern lights are expected to be visible to the naked eye.

Professor Craig Rodger from Otago University's physics department told Newshub he wouldn't normally be able to predict auroras, but recent activity on the sun means the likelihood of more lights has increased.

About a week ago, two explosions were launched from then sun, and are currently speeding through space.

"Coronal mass ejections - or as I call them, solar tsunamis, throw out big waves of plasma that come from the sun, and essentially throw big chunks of the sun into space," he said.

When these solar tsunamis crash into the earth's magnetic field, we see the glow of the aurora.

In order for this glow to be visible to the naked eye, Professor Rodger says the further south you are, the better.

"If I was in Stewart Island, I'd be very, very excited. If I was in Dunedin, I'd be pretty excited. If I was somewhere in Wellington, I'd probably have to wait and see before I went out in the cold,"

The best time to view the lights is between 9pm and 3am on Wednesday night and Thursday morning. 

To have the best chance of seeing the lights, Rodger says you need to be as close to sea level as possible, looking due south towards the horizon, with no land masses in the way.

Happy sky spotting, New Zealand.