What is Aurora Australis

The impressive and almost unknown sister of the Northern Lights

From TRAVELBOOK | August 26, 2020, 5:47 a.m.

The northern lights or aurora borealis are a world-famous light phenomenon that can be observed especially in clear winter months in Norway, Finland or Iceland and other parts of the northern hemisphere. On the other hand, the sister of the northern lights, the Aurora Australis or the southern lights, is not so well known. They can be discovered in the southern hemisphere.

A glistening, colorful streak of light lies over the horizon, is reflected on the surface of the sea and probably amazes every observer and a moment of silent fascination. Aurora Australis is the name of the glowing phenomenon that sky lovers can look for and find in the south of the earth. Where exactly do you have to go?

Here you can see the southern lights

Australia

You have a good chance of seeing the rare nighttime light show in Australia. Because of the low light pollution, Tasmania is particularly suitable, here for example Satellite Island and Bruny Island, but you can also see the light spectacle well in other places in Tasmania. The main thing is that you are far away from artificial light and have a large piece of horizon in front of you. In addition to Tasmania, a place near Melbourne is also a good place to see the southern lights: the Mornington Peninsula. The best time to spot the Aurora Australis in Australia is from June to August, but it is also occasionally seen in May and September.

Also interesting: the best tips for a vacation in Australia

New Zealand

Neighbor New Zealand also invites you to watch the southern lights in many places. Stewart Island, in the south of the South Island, deserves a special mention here. The Rakiura National Park is the best address here - and was not called by the Māori for nothing: "Rakiura" means "glowing sky". The northern lights are also visible in other areas in the south of the country, such as Queenstown, Christchurch, Dunedin and Lake Tekapo.

Australia and New Zealand are undoubtedly the best places to see the Northern Lights, simply because they are the easiest to get to. But there are also other, more remote and more complicated places to travel to in the world that are paradises of the southern lights:

Antarctic

As in the Arctic, you can also see the aurora in the Antarctic - just Australis instead of Borealis. It is best seen here in the winter months, which are opposite to the northern hemisphere in the southern hemisphere. But be careful: unlike Australia and New Zealand, the Antarctic is far less tourist-friendly and offers a fantastic sky spectacle as well as lots of ice and temperatures down to minus 50 degrees. Most cruise ships and flights only head for the white continent in summer anyway. If you book a tour around April, you can be lucky, and the chance of whale sightings is great.

Also interesting: Antarctica adventure - how does a trip to the South Pole work?

South Georgia

To the east of the southern tip of South America lies South Georgia, a group of islands in the South Atlantic. Politically it belongs to the British overseas territory, but is claimed by Argentina. And: South Georgia is a wonderful place to see the southern lights, especially in March, but the aurora can also appear in the sky in the months following until September.

Falkland Islands

Not too far from South Georgia are the Falkland Islands, also part of the British overseas territory, claimed by Argentina and an ideal destination if someone wants to see the southern lights. This works best between April and August. Visitors will encounter penguins here even safer than the lights of the sky.

Argentina

And not only on the islands claimed by Argentina off the South American coast, but also on the Argentine mainland you can see the southern lights. In Ushuaia, in the very south of the country. This is the best chance of spotting the aurora if you come by between June and August, but the weather must play along.

How does an aurora come about?

National Geographic defines it as follows: "The spectral show occurs when electrically charged particles illuminated by the sun meet gas particles in the earth's atmosphere, such as oxygen and nitrogen, and cause them to emit light." The color is determined by the wavelengths: "Oxygen often releases a red or greenish-yellow hue, nitrogen a blue one." The appearance can last for a few minutes or even days, and visibility is affected by factors such as light pollution, cloud cover, starlight and moonlight.

On the Aurora Service page you can check when and where the next aurora can be seen in the southern hemisphere.

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