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When to see Aurora Australis in Stewart Island?

Brisbane
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When to see Aurora Australis in Stewart Island?

Some people said the best time is June. But other said October to December. I'm planning to there for a month. I really want to see the Aurora Australis. Is there anyone know when is the best time?

Christchurch, New...
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1. Re: When to see Aurora Australis in Stewart Island?

I think you need to be aware of sun spot activity rather than seasons/particular months!

A month on Stewart Island would be a real "get-away-from-it-all" holiday!

San Antonio, Texas
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2. Re: When to see Aurora Australis in Stewart Island?

You need a kp >= 5 event to see it low on the horizon from Stewart Island, and they don't happen all that often. You might get one night of kp >= 5 every two months or so, and then you're going to need clear skies, which certainly isn't a given on Stewart Island. The sunspot cycle and the corresponding solar flares don't really care what month it is on Earth, so the only reason people say to see it in winter is because you usually have to be close enough to one of the magnetic poles to see have a good chance to see aurora. That usually means being at a latitude high enough that there's no real night if you go in summer. You're talking central or western Antarctica if you want a really good chance to see the Aurora Australis, since you can't stay on Macquarie Island and since it doesn't look to be over the eastern part of the continent much. You're way better off in the northern hemisphere winter trying to see aurora, since you have lots of land at high enough latitude to see it often in places like Alaska, Norway, Iceland, etc.

www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast/SouthPolar/

San Antonio, Texas
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3. Re: When to see Aurora Australis in Stewart Island?

Maybe just pay attention to the flare activity and if you have a big one, head down to Bluff/Invercargill/Stewart Island ASAP to catch it 2-3 days later when the (necessarily very large) burst of charged particles hit our magnetic field.

Te Anau
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4. Re: When to see Aurora Australis in Stewart Island?

We very rarely see the Aurora Australis in NZ. Occasionally we get a lightness in the southern sky, but very seldom anything like a fully developed Aurora. There was quite a reasonable display last year for a couple of night, apparently, but I missed it because it was cloudy.

As Zhuhai says, it depends on sunspot activity, and although I believe this is sort of predictable, you certainly wouldn't want to plan your holiday around it.

San Antonio, Texas
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5. Re: When to see Aurora Australis in Stewart Island?

Also have to add there was a kp = 4 event when I was on the South Island last November, but I couldn't see anything from Fox Glacier where I was staying that night.

San Antonio, Texas
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6. Re: When to see Aurora Australis in Stewart Island?

Let me take my best stab at the predictability:

It's predicable what years it will be good, since the sunspot cycle is known to take 11 years. A sunspot basically corresponds to a huge loop in the Sun's magnetic field coming from its surface and up into the corona, and large masses of charged particles can traverse these magnetic field line loops and get heated to the point they're moving faster than the escape velocity needed to escape the Sun's gravitational pull, and thus they fly off, escaping from the Sun. This is called a coronal mass ejection. Everything is plasma (e.g., heated to the point that there are no atoms, only protons, neutrons, and electrons), so these particles brought by the solar wind (really the mass ejections from the Sun) are charged and interact with the Earth's magnetic field when they hit it.

Those huge loops on the Sun are caused by the fact that the Sun isn't solid and doesn't have the same rotation rates at different latitudes (unlike the Earth, where a day is a day anywhere, since even near the poles the planet rotates with the same period is does at the equator).

The Sun is always having these coronal mass ejections during peak sunspot years, but the problem is the direction they're sent off is kind of random, and being 93 million miles away and very small in relation to the Sun's size, the Earth is extremely unlikely to be in the path of any single coronal mass ejection.

I can't remember exactly why it takes 3 days for the coronal mass ejection to make it to Earth, but seeing (or not seeing) a coronal mass ejection on the Sun in the direction of Earth is the only way to predict what the auroras will look like 3 days later (the light only takes 9 minutes to reach Earth, unlike the solar wind).

Edited: 5:00 pm, February 05, 2013
Te Anau
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7. Re: When to see Aurora Australis in Stewart Island?

Good stuff Spursfan. Sound like our weather. Predictably unpredictable.

I think NZ is a bit far north for Auroras. The 45th paralell runs diagonally across the lower South Island, passing through Oamaru and TeAnau. Probably the southern tip of South America would be better.

San Antonio, Texas
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8. Re: When to see Aurora Australis in Stewart Island?

From looking at the forecasts, South America looks even worse, since the magnetic south pole is actually biased pretty significantly northeast from the geographic South Pole in the direction of New Zealand and thus away from South America. Its latitude is only about 64.5 degrees South, which is probably why Macquarie Island seems to always have nice aurora forecasts (it's unpopulated though).

Edited: 6:48 pm, February 05, 2013
Te Anau
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9. Re: When to see Aurora Australis in Stewart Island?

Amazing what you can learn on TripAdviser. They say that travel broadens the mind, but perhaps you just need to think about travelling to gain a better insight into our natural world. Many thanks.

New Zealand
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10. Re: When to see Aurora Australis in Stewart Island?

Macquarie Island has no citizens but it does have a population year round of about 20 to 40 Aussies doing research etc.

I visited a few years ago but can't recall the night sky - I think it was overcast anyhow.

Invercargill and Dunedin had a good AA show last year - and Tekapo seems to to attract more than it's fair share of the stunning Aurora.