Solar blast to light up NZ skies tonight

The NZ sky could be lit up by the Aurora Australis, or Southern Lights after Nasa detected a solar blast heading towards earth. Photo / NASA
The NZ sky could be lit up by the Aurora Australis, or Southern Lights after Nasa detected a solar blast heading towards earth. Photo / NASA

The New Zealand sky could be lit up by the Aurora Australis, or Southern Lights, tonight after American space agency Nasa detected a solar blast heading towards earth.

The flare, consisting of large clouds of charged particles, will probably have no noticeable consequences apart from possibly causing aurora which Nasa described as "rippling dancing curtains of green and red light".

Stargazers who live in the South Island will have a better chance of catching a glimpse of the aurora as the effect is stronger closer to both poles.

Stardome Observatory Astronomer Dr Grant Christie said it had been the sun's longest quiet period in a century.

"We were hoping that the sun wasn't totally comatose and it was going to come to life again and it looks like that's happening," said Dr Christie. What's unusual is it's taken it a long time to do that."

The aurora is caused as the particles ejected from the sun interacted with earth's magnetic field, creating a geomagnetic storm, Nasa said.

Solar particles then stream down the field lines toward Earth's poles and collide with atoms of nitrogen and oxygen in the atmosphere, resulting in spectacular night time displays in the sky.

- NZPA, Newstalk ZB

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