Missed out on last night’s aurora australis light show? 

Fortunately the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has confirmed the southern lights should be visible once again tonight. 

Here’s what you need to know. 

Why will the lights still be visible? 

According to the BOM, the geomagnetic storms that have caused the aurora australis over the weekend are forecast to continue. 

University of Tasmania physics professor Andrew Cole says while the peak has passed, another light show may be visible tonight.

“Because things are happening right now during daylight I would start looking as soon as it gets dark after sunset, and just find an area that’s free from obstructions on the southern horizon, generally free from city lights,” he said.

ANU astrophysicist Brad Tucker says the Southern Lights may be visible thought until the early hours of Monday.

“The aurora have been quite extreme. Often, given that the Sun has been quite active lately, you can see it decently in Tasmania,” he said.

“But here, large parts of Australia — in some places it’s predicted to reach as far north as Queensland, which is fairly rare.”

The aurora was seen on Queensland’s Keppel Coast.(Supplied: Glenn Adamus)

Geomagnetic storms? 

The Australian Space Weather Alert System says: “Coronal mass ejections occur when large clouds of plasma and magnetic field erupt in the Sun’s outer atmosphere.”

When the mass ejections hit Earth, they cause geomagnetic storms.

Geomagnetic storms are a temporary disturbance of the Earth’s magnetosphere caused by a solar wind shock wave.

The result of this a natural light display of bright colours and shapes in the sky.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warns the storms pose a risk to radio, GPS and satellite communications.

Space scientist Robert Steenburgh said coronal mass ejections coming from the Sun carried a magnetic field which caused interruptions.

“As these things slam into our magnetic field, our magnetic field starts moving and that movement will induce currents on conductors like powerlines and train tracks and that induced current is unwelcome.” 

“For most people here on planet Earth, they won’t have to do anything.

“That’s really the gift from space weather: the aurora.”

How often do we see them? 

The BOM said the current storm occurring across the planet was at a G5 or extreme level. 

The last time Earth experienced a G5 storm was in October 2003.

The G-scale is a measure of global geomagnetic activity, which refers to fluctuations in Earth’s magnetic field. The G scale ranges from G1 (minor) to G5 (extreme).

Initially the storm was predicted to be a G4 severe level. 

According to the BOM, over Australia geomagnetic conditions are lower than the planetary average, equivalent to G3 (strong) level. However, that has not stopped Australians from enjoying the latest light show. 

The coronal mass ejections which cause geomagnetic activity are happening all the time. However, they ramp up as the Sun approaches the peak of its 11-year solar magnetic activity cycle — something that is happening right now.

Any photography tips? 

Check out our gallery of photos of the aurora australis taken across Australia

The standard advice for viewing any astronomical event is to get away from city lights, which will wash out the sky.

Another piece of advice is to take photos of the night sky with your phone camera even if you can’t see the lights with your naked eye.

“Just go out your back door and take a picture with the newer cell phones, and you’d be amazed at what you see in that picture versus what you see with your eyes,” Brent Gordon, from America’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said.

The aurora australis is best seen from areas well away from city lights. (Supplied: Jai Moyle)

On social media, keen spotters backed that up, saying a reasonable phone camera with night-vision mode could capture more than the naked eye.

“View the sky through the camera of your phone,” one user wrote.

“When there is ambient light around, the sky looks as though there’s a misty cloud that is just a bit green but your camera app will pick up the other colours.

“Away from the lights, you can probably see colours without the camera.”

But what if you have access to a DSLR or mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses?

Get a tripod so you can take stable long-exposure photos, and a wide-angle fast lens in the 10mm-35mm range, Space.com suggests.

Use the slowest f-stop possible to let in the most light, and use an iso setting of 800-2,500 depending on how bright the lights are.

A remote shutter release can also help prevent the camera shaking.

Photos of aurora australis taken around Australia

The geomagnetic storm created a lightshow that few had seen before, thrilling amateur and professional photographers. 

Here’s what the aurora australis looked like around Australia.

The aurora australis captured over Hobart’s Tasman Bridge.(Supplied: Scott Glyph)

Mount Barker in the Adelaide Hills.(Supplied: Patrick Wynne)

Aurora Australis, southern Tasmania, May 11, 2024(Supplied: Simon Gregory)

Bruny Island, Tasmania.(Supplied: Benjamin Convery)

The Tessellated Pavement at Eaglehawk Neck, Tasmania.(Supplied: Jordan Cripps)

Hobart, Tasmania.(Supplied: Ryan Kincade)


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