Want to be dazzled by the Aurora Australis? Here’s your chance

Brilliant hues of pink,green and purple lit up the sky across Victoria in the early hours of Monday as a disturbance in the Earth’s magnetic field brought a dazzling display from Aurora Australis.

The Southern Lights were sighted as far north as Mildura and Canberra and there were reports of the Aurora Australis being witnessed in the Western Australian town of Esperance and from New Zealand.

The Aurora Australis at 5am on Monday,as seen from Dutton Way in Bolwarra,near Portland.

The Aurora Australis at 5am on Monday,as seen from Dutton Way in Bolwarra,near Portland.Kelly Simpson Clark,Stardust Graphics

A strong geomagnetic storm brought on by a solar flare caused the natural phenomena to be especially vivid on Monday morning,delighting photographers,farmers and early risers across the state.

Professor Andrew Cole,an astrophysicist at the University of Tasmania,said Monday morning’s aurora was the “most intense” he’d seen in the past 15 years.

“The aurora is really evidence that there’s some kind of magnetic disturbance in the Earth’s very far upper atmosphere,” Cole said.

“Last night was special because a blob of gas that had been ejected from the Sun about three or four days earlier actually impacted onthe Earth’s magnetosphere.

“So that was like the moment of impact at about 3.30am or 3.45am,and the aurora just went off after that for a couple of hours.”

Cole said conditions to see the aurora will remain “pretty favourable” this week because the Earth’s magnetic field is still disturbed,and there’s still a lot of energy being converted into light.

Solar activity – which follows an 11-year cycle – is currently peaking in southern Australia,meaning the chances to spying the Aurora Australis are occurring more often after a few lean years.

Bureau of Meteorology senior meteorologist Dean Narramore said it was “unusual” to see reports of the Southern Lights so far north,with reports of the lights being viewed in the ACT.

“Normally,you see this over the[South] Pole,but when you do get these large magnetic surges,you do get see these really prettylights further north,” he said.

“It’s always tough to model the timing and intensity,but it looks like it will be ongoing overnight.

“Probably not as strong ... Tasmania is likely to see another version of last night’s activity,and maybe some parts of southern coastal Victoria too will get it if it’s cloud-free.”

Cole has some top tips for anyone hoping to chase the Aurora Australis over the next few days.

“If you have clear southern views with no lights,that’s the best,” he said.

“If it gets really strong,people in southern Victoria might have to turn around and look north. So don’t forget to look over the entire sky.”

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Ashleigh McMillan is a breaking news reporter at The Age.

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