A spectacular display of the Southern Lights over parts of the South Island last night signals the imminent arrival of winter.

Christchurch couple Graham and Amanda Fisher were among a small group of enthusiasts who captured the aurora on video at Lake Ellesmere, just south of Christchurch.

They said it was the first light display visible since late last winter, and was on a par with the most spectacular light show seen last year.

"We were quite surprised with what we saw, it was in the top two of the best ones we've seen," Graham Fisher said.

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Graham, a plumber, and Amanda, an accounts manager, have joined an Aurora Australis Facebook group which sends out alerts on nights when there is a good prospect of seeing the aurora.

"Two years ago I had no idea," Graham said.

Graham Fisher's image of the southern aurora over Lake Ellesmere last night. Photo supplied
Graham Fisher's image of the southern aurora over Lake Ellesmere last night. Photo supplied

"I go with my wife. She got me interested. Now we go with a camera each. I do time-lapse and she takes stills.

"You become addicted. We find groups of people out there, everybody is excited. You all look at each other's cameras."

Graham and Amanda Fisher say they have got
Graham and Amanda Fisher say they have got "addicted" to the extraordinary sight of the Southern Lights over Lake Ellesmere. Photo / Amanda and Graham Fisher

The Fishers have occasionally taken their three children, aged 10 to 13, but usually leave them at home because sometimes they have to wait until the middle of the night to see the lights.

"We are quite lucky last night it started at about 7pm," Graham said. "Often we are out quite late."

The Facebook page is based in the South Island and now has just under 20,000 members from around the world.

Almost 20,000 people have joined the Aurora Australis group on Facebook. Photo / Amanda and Graham Fisher
Almost 20,000 people have joined the Aurora Australis group on Facebook. Photo / Amanda and Graham Fisher

"I was just messaging someone from America who is coming on holiday and is trying to get information and ideas on locations," Fisher said.

"There's an Australian group as well. You do bump into some interesting people."