Where to find

The Aurora is formed when high speed sunspot activity collides with the Earths magnetic field. This can happen at any time but is only visible at night. Some very bright aurora are visible in the dawn and dust. Others require a dark sky without a moon – depending on the strength of the solar flare. Near water makes for great photos. The ideal place would seem to be inside with big glass windows. The Finish have a saying – “no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.”

Auroa Australis is the south pole aurora and Aurora Borealis is the north pole Aurora. looking at a world map you will notice that it is much easier to get further north on land that in the south.

You need to be in as near to the poles as practical. But that lots of light pollution from nearby towns reduces your chances. Note how many town lights are in Japan, Europe and Southern Canada. This image is by David Campbell  who has travelled to fairbanks in Alaska where there are high mountains providing a clear dark sky.

Aurora Borealis during the 2013 March 17th CME event at Fairbanks Alaska
Aurora Borealis during the 2013 March 17th CME event at Fairbanks Alaska

So for Southern Aurora, some of the best places are:

  • Ushuaia – Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. This is where most of the Antarctic Aurora  ship cruises leave from.
  • On the the South Island of New Zealand, Dunedin, Queenstown and Invercargill on.
  • In Australia, travel south of Hobart in Tasmania. South Bruny Island, Southport and Dover show some promise.

Critical factors in your chances of seeing the Aurora are:

  • Likelyhood of solar storms. They can occur any time but there is an 11 year solar cycle – currently 2009 – 2020. In 2018 there were less than 22 events, while Jan 2014 and Nov 2011 had nearly 150 sunspots each. The blue line is the smoothed average. So 2025 may be looking good if planning a trip. The graph is from the Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology website.
  • How dark the sky is. Find a spot away from suburbs and street lights.
  • How far south you are. There are Kp reports that show how current KP required for your latitude.
  • If you are to far south, you are limited to winter winter as the sun wont set in summer. This affects the whole of Antarctica. Northern hemisphere areas affected are: Canada, Alaska, Greenland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia.

For us, given that the next few years look a bit lean for sunspots, we’ll be heading to areas south of Hobart, because its cheap to get there, we love Tassie, want to see the awesome MONA gallery and a few quite weeks re-exporing south of Hobart will be very relaxing.

Next will be way south in New Zealands south island, also enjoying waterfalls and Lord of the Ring film location.

Then either the Northern hemisphere or the southern tip of Argentina. Would love to post photos from all locations.

How to see Tasmania’s stunning Southern Lights