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More auroras forecast for next week

Mar 05, 2023

More dazzling auroras are expected this week due to a period of solar maximum.

Both the Aurora Australis and Aurora Borealis have been particularly active following recent solar storms, more of which are expected this week.

Astronomer and Otago Museum Director Dr Ian Griffin said the solar storms were caused by magnetically driven explosions on the sun, that fire material at high speed away from the sun.

"If the sun spots in the right position on the sun, that material will head directly towards the earth."

More auroras are expected this week due to a period of solar maximum. Photo: Supplied / Ian Griffin

Griffin said a period of solar maximum happened once every 11 years when the sun was particularly active with lots of spots on its surface.

The solar maximum had also occurred at a time when more solar activity was already expected, he said.

"In March and September, near the equinoxes, Earth's magnetic field is more easily coupled with the sun's, and that means we get even more solar activity."

For those wanting to see the southern lights, Griffin said a clear night away from the city lights with a view to the south was optimal.

However those at the bottom end of the South Island were likely to get the best view.

Griffin said the naked eye was not able to see the aurora as well as a camera, but people should not let that put them off.

"The display I saw on last Monday night, it was wonderful. I could see a greenish hue low to the horizon and occasional tints red and slowly, almost mystical, glowing moving parts of the sky."

For those wanting to photograph the aurora, "put your camera on a tripod and set the speed as high as it will go and open the shutter for about 5 to 10 seconds, maybe a bit longer," Griffin said.

He said it was an exciting time for those who chased the aurora.

Check out aurora forecasts here.

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