This natural phenomenon of lights display in the sky is caused by geomagnetic storm. When electrically charged electrons and protons accelerate down the Earth's magnetic field lines and collide with neutral atoms in the upper atmosphere, usually about 100 kilometres above the Earth, the consequence is light emissions.
This rare display is visible from high southern latitudes in Antarctica, South America, New Zealand and Australia. It is almost identical to Australis Borealis, The Northern Lights.
Aurora Australis Captured From South Arm, Tasmania
Aurora Australis is best seen on a dark sky with a clear view across the horizon facing South. If you can find the Southern Cross constellation and face it, you can use it to find out where South is.
Although Auroras are more likely to occur close to the equinoxes, in late March and late September, incredible displays can occur at any time of year. The winter months are naturally good aurora-watching times, simply because the nights are longer. The brightest displays typically last for about 1-3 hours, and the best viewing times are generally between 10 pm and 1am. However, all viewing depends on the aurora strength (Kp) at that particular time.
The Kp number is a system of measuring aurora strength. It goes from 0 to 9 (0 being very weak, 9 being a major geomagnetic storm with strong auroras visible). So when you are looking at the aurora forecast, you want to see high Kp numbers. The higher the better. Anything above (and including) Kp5 is classed as a geomagnetic storm.
For those in Australia, the best place to view will be from South of Tasmania i.e. South Arm , Dru Point and Howden. When aurora is strong, the lights display can be seen from mainland Australia too. There are people who managed to capture the lights display from Victoria, Canberra, New South Wales, Western Australia and South Australia. For suggestions on best aurora viewing locations, check out this map
shared by Aurora Australis Tasmania
Do note that the further distance away from South Pole would mean weaker strength lights display. Sometimes, the lights display can only be captured using a camera but when the rating is Kp 5 and above, it can be seen with naked eyes. The lights may appear more like a white flickering light instead of vibrant colours as captured by the camera.
For aurora alert, check out BOM Alert Service
On my recent trip to Tasmania and Great Ocean Road, I didn't manage to see the lights display with naked eyes due to cloudy sky and low Kp. My friend and hubby only managed to capture it using the camera on long exposure.
Southern Lights Captured From Port Campbell by ysliang
Southern Lights Captured In South Arm, Tasmania
For more info, do check out Aurora Australis Tasmania FB Group