Northern Lights shine bright in the south

Published on October 27th, 2011
Northern Lights shine bright in the south

Thanks to a combination of a large cloud of gas and magnetic field ejected from the sun, and lucky timing, the marvelous Northern Lights could be seen as far south as Atlanta in the US recently.

What’s the big deal? Well, it’s not called the Northern Lights for fun and games… As you may suspect, the best place to see the Aurora Borealis (that’s the fancy name for it) is from somewhere up north, naturally.

More specifically, anywhere you can get to that’s within 2500km from the North Pole, which includes a number of countries like Canada, Greenland, Siberia, Norway and Alaska – the northern areas of all these countries is where you’ll want to be.

Now this may come as a bit of a shocker: you can actually see the Northern Lights from the South Pole. So, why don’t they call it the Southern Lights? Well, there simply aren’t that many regions in the south suitable for human habitation, that make for a good viewing location. So unless you live in Antarctica, Tasmania, or southern New Zealand, the lights are pretty hard to see. Of course if your’re crazy enough to be on a boat in the Southern Ocean you may have a pretty remarkable view.

So when the astronomical wonder could be seen from the south, physicists and researchers from the Space Weather Prediction Centre of the National Weather Service were left scratching their heads.

“We knew there would be something, but we were calling for very low level system impacts and for aurora to only be visible to those who are used to seeing aurora,” said Doug Biesecker. “Boy was I wrong.”

He goes on to say, “With an 11-year solar cycle nearing a peak in 2013, “there will be more opportunities in the coming years”.

While pictures just wont do the sight any justice, check this out…