Jamie Morton is the NZ Herald's science reporter.

Stunning aurora captured from Auckland

An Auckland self-described "aurora hunter" got the shot of a lifetime when he captured the Southern Lights over the Manukau Heads.

Gareth West was out with a flatmate photographing the sunset last night when he thought he might also have a chance of catching the Aurora Australis that was spotted across the country.

"I'm from Dunedin and I've been aurora hunting for the last year and a half. I'm an astro-photographer as well and I'd been following this one since I moved up to Auckland about six months ago," he said.

Auckland photographer Gareth West captured this shot of last night's aurora over the Manukau Heads. Photo / Gareth West/Focused West Photography
Auckland photographer Gareth West captured this shot of last night's aurora over the Manukau Heads. Photo / Gareth West/Focused West Photography

"The opportunity to catch one is rare unless the aurora index, which is called the KP index, goes over six, and last night it got from about 6.5 to seven ... that's nearly unheard of, and a very, very rare thing to happen."

West thought the Manukau Heads could be a great vantage point from which to photograph the spectacle.

"So we went there and thought, let's just see what happens, and then she erupted all over New Zealand.

"You might see the odd air glow, or the glow of an aurora, but to see the full-on beams, the redness, and the way it erupted... and to photograph it, well, there have only been a handful of people that have ever done it."

He captured the picture around 10.30pm on a full frame Canon DSLR 6D with a 24mm wide-angle lens.

Meanwhile, Canterbury photographer Ekant Veer managed to snap what he described as "by the biggest Aurora Australis display I've seen".

In a Facebook post, Veer described it as "a surreal experience to see it dancing across the sky".

"The battery in my camera had nearly died and I wasn't sure if anything else was going to happen, so I decided to pack up my gear.

The shot snapped by Canterbury photographer Ekant Veer. Photo / Ekant Veer
The shot snapped by Canterbury photographer Ekant Veer. Photo / Ekant Veer

"I was walking back to my car when I turned around one last time to see the aurora clearly dancing across the sky to the naked eye. I flipped in a new battery, chucked the tripod down in the sand and grabbed this panorama.

"I took a look at my time lapse and the show finished shortly after this. I'm glad I was there to see it. Something everyone should try and stick on their bucket list."

The encounter came just a few weeks after cameraman Larryn Rae captured extraordinary pictures of the Aurora Australis in Auckland after heading out to the Waitakeres on a whim during a geomagnetic storm.

The Aurora Australis is the result of particles in solar winds colliding with atmospheric gases.

The particles converge and become more visible close to the poles of the earth.

Its better-known cousin is the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, which draws millions of tourists to Nordic countries each year.

- NZ Herald

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