Jamie Morton is the NZ Herald's science reporter.

Picture special: Polar light show

The 'Southern Lights' occur when the Earth's magnetic field interacts with a flow of highly charged particles.  Photo / Tim Delany
The 'Southern Lights' occur when the Earth's magnetic field interacts with a flow of highly charged particles. Photo / Tim Delany

For one of the harshest places on the planet, Antarctica in the winter does have its delights.

This dazzling display over Scott Base, captured in this long-exposure photograph by Antarctica New Zealand winter-over staffer Tim Delany, is typical of the auroras which dazzle those who stay around for the dark months.

What are commonly called the Southern Lights occur when the Earth's magnetic field interacts with a flow of highly charged particles from thesun.

As these particles collide with molecules in the atmosphere they release energy which is seen as light.

Antarctica New Zealand's winter-over mechanic, Lex McKenzie, has worked three seasons on the ice and is on his second winter stay.

"Compared to my first winter-over in 2009/10, there hasn't been as many auroras so far and they don't appear to be as bright as they were back then," he said.

"I've seen quite a few auroras in Antarctica and from home in Invercargill where we are lucky enough on a clear night to see them light up the horizon.

"I don't get quite as excited as people spending their first winter on ice but it's definitely a really special thing to see, more so on the ice."

But having the best seats for the light show comes with a price - the weather at Scott Base yesterday was packing 40km/h north-northwest winds and the temperature was a bracing -40C.

- NZ Herald

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