PHOTOS: Second breathtaking night of Aurora Australis in SA has people asking, will it be back tonight?

After two incredible nights, and thousands of unbelievable photos, the big question is, will the Southern Lights be back again tonight.

Featured image: Port Noarlunga captured by Rommel Obnias

On Friday and Saturday, May 10th and 11th, the magnificent Aurora Australis graced South Australian skies (and those right around the world) as a powerful geomagnetic storm that originated on the sun’s surface, triggered spectacular sightings across the State.

The best thing about last night? Friday’s photos and sightings had given all those who missed out on the first night, a visual heads up about why they should make the effort and get outside on Saturday night to witness the spectacle! And the world was not disappointed. In South Australia alone, thousands and thousands of photos have been shared, as regular families, equipped with only their phones, captured the rare moments, with some breathtaking results.

The lights are the strongest they’ve been in 20 years, and are normally unable to be seen in SA. In what is usually a feat reserved for those trekking to the South Pole, or photographers who brave the early hours of the morning to capture these rare moments, this weekend has seen people far and wide experience the natural phenomenon.

The geomagnetic storm was triggered by a coronal mass ejection (CME) or substantial releases of plasma and magnetic fields from the sun.

Moonta Jetty snapped by Con Sevastidis
Port Hughes captured by Her Vantage
Photo credit: Simon Deluca-Cardillo
Photo credit: Simon Deluca-Cardillo

The storms occur due to coronal mass ejections, during which clouds of plasma burst forth from the sun’s outer atmosphere. These particles then travel toward Earth, producing the breathtaking spectacle when they collide with the Earth’s magnetic field.

So if you missed out, while the chances are lower today, there’s still a chance to get a glimpse of the Aurora Australis tonight, but you’ll need to follow some guidelines. And don’t worry, you won’t necessarily need to stay up all night to see them (although they do get better as the night gets darker). We caught the magic last night right after sunset at around 6:30pm. No 4am wake ups here!

The Bureau of Meteorology says it should be visible until the early hours of Monday morning. You can also check Aurora forecast apps for more detailed information.

Experiencing the Aurora Australis can be a magical event, though it may not be as vivid as what you might expect. Here are some enhanced tips to help you make the most of this natural spectacle:

  1. Understand the Colours: The Aurora Australis often appears as faint hues of grey and pink. Occasionally, you might witness soft greens in the sky. These colours are generally subtle and might be challenging to see with the naked eye. Using a camera, even your smartphone, can enhance these colours in your photos, capturing more than what is visible directly.
  2. Using Your Smartphone: Modern smartphones are quite capable of photographing the Aurora. For iPhones, navigate to the Camera app, tap the arrow at the top of the screen to access advanced settings, and select the “Night mode” icon (resembles a crescent moon). Adjust the exposure time to about 10 seconds for the best effect. Stability is key, so resting your phone on a stable surface or using a tripod is advisable to avoid blurry images.
  3. Choosing the Right Location: To optimize your viewing experience, position yourself away from city lights. Rural areas are ideal. If you’re at the beach, find a spot where shadows can help your eyes adjust to the darkness. Using your phone’s camera in long exposure mode can act as a helpful viewfinder to detect the auroras, which might appear brighter on your screen than they do in person.
  4. Tips for DSLR Users: If you have a DSLR camera, enhance your chances by setting up away from artificial lighting. Mount your camera on a tripod to maintain stability, and use settings such as ISO 2000-4000, aperture at f/2.8, and a shutter speed of 15 to 30 seconds.
West Beach captured beautifully by Alex Frayne
Woomera Observatory used the Andamooka Opal Mine to capture the colours of the Aurora. Photo by Bec Tayler
Mount Barker, captured by Patrick Wynne

Additional Tips

  • Patience is Key: Auroras can be unpredictable. Be prepared to wait and keep your camera ready.
  • Dress Warmly: Nighttime viewings can get cold, especially away from urban warmth.
  • Check Aurora Forecasts: Websites and apps that track solar activity can help you plan the best nights for aurora viewing.

With these tips, you’re better prepared to capture and enjoy the elusive beauty of the Aurora Australis.

See yesterday’s epic gallery of Aurora Australis in South Australia here.

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