An abundance of aurora australis displays throughout December looks set to continue into the new year, as the night skies plunge deeper into an increasingly active period.

Key points:

  • Aurora australis events are expected to continue for the next 12 months
  • Interest in the spectacles is driving strong growth in social media pages
  • Social media feeds are also serving as early alert systems ahead of aurora events

A solar maximum cycle is forecast to trigger multiple sunspots, which result in solar storms that cause aurora lightshows on Earth.

December has proved a particularly fruitful month for overnight observers, with the southern lights at the beginning of the month driving waves of traffic to dedicated forecasting sites and Facebook groups.

Perth Observatory spokesman Matt Woods said the active period of solar maximum was set to peak in early 2025.

The aurora seen from Albany, Western Australia, in early December.(Supplied: Andrea Deegan)

“This solar maximum was actually forecast to be quite weak, but it has been proving to be anything but,” Mr Woods said.

“We still have another year or so for chances of a good aurora. For anyone thinking of trying to go out and see one, it’s worth trying at every opportunity.

“Two out of every three might be complete duds, but that third one could be amazing.”

When and where to look?

Aurora displays typically follow solar flares or coronial mass ejections from the sun, with the luminance of the light show a result of each factor’s intensity.

Dedicated forecasting apps report inbound weather events, giving the observer a general window of opportunity for viewing. 

In Australia, auroras are observed in the south, with best viewing about one hour after sunset until just before dawn.

They can last 10 minutes to several hours and are often not visible to the naked eye.


Mr Woods stressed the most important virtue for prospective aurora chasers was patience, coupled with an understanding that a light show was not a given — even if all indications suggested otherwise.

“Ultimately, you just need to be there on the night,” he said.

“We are in a good phase so if you miss one, there’s every chance another won’t be too far away.”

Interest in forecaster app skyrockets

Andy Stables developed the UK-based aurora forecaster, Glendale App, and said interest exploded following the aurora australis event.

“Traffic on the app reached a record 444,000 requests in a single hour, or 7,400 every minute,” Mr Stables said.

“It was 3.55 million requests in 24 hours. I’m totally blown away by the response to my app in Australia.”

Margaret Sonnemann created the Aurora Australis Tasmania Facebook page and said she received a surge of requests in the wake of the early December event.

“I’m having a hard time keeping up with the number of people wanting to join my group,” she said.

“It can be up to 1,000 a day. Every time there is an event and people see the incredible photos they are wanting to join, but it is fantastic to see that interest growing.

“It has been a very positive thing.”

Aurora australis over a home near Saltwater River in Tasmania.(Supplied: Jules Witek)

Modern tech fostering connections

Mr Stables and Ms Sonnemann believed the raised profile of aurora displays was in part due to the relative ease in which they could now be captured.

“The amazing night-time capabilities of modern smart phones mean that everyone is able to capture their special moment and share it with their friends,” Mr Stables said. 

“It is no longer restricted to photographers with expensive, professional-grade kit.”

“The sense of community that comes with people gathering to watch auroras is a wonderful thing,” Ms Sonnemann said.

“On any given night, you could be standing side by side with a doctor, or some sort of expert in something, all marvelling at the same thing.”

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