A “super massive” aurora is expected to grace New Zealand skies during Wednesday night and Thursday.
Niwa tweeted about the event on Wednesday morning, and Otago Museum director Ian Griffin, a self-professed “nutter” for auroras, said the predictions were based on a NASA space weather warning, which showed a large sun spot and multiple solar flares were firing large amounts of charged particles at Earth’s atmosphere.
“It’s like a massive lawn sprinkler, firing things towards us,” he said.
While the prospects of a light show were looking good, Griffin warned that there were a couple of factors working against New Zealand.
Firstly, tonight is predicted to be cloudy for much of the North and South Island, and secondly, there is a full moon in the skies, making the aurora harder to see.
“Having said that, aurora hunters, certainly all over the South Island, are getting quite excited because the prospects of this one are quite good,” Griffin said.
“As with all of these things, it’s a natural phenomenon, and it’s really really hard to get a precise forecast … it could be any time from this evening right through to tomorrow.”
Griffin advised stargazers to carry a torch with a red filter to avoid ruining other viewers’ ability to see the aurora, and anyone hoping to capture the spectacle on camera would need a tripod.
“You will need a decent digital camera, and you basically put your camera on the tripod and take exposures of between five seconds and 20 seconds, and if you point it to the south and focus the camera right, you should catch it.”
Niwa weather expert Ben Noll said the best place to capture the aurora would be on the east coast of the North Island.
For stargazers in Wellington, conditions would likely be best during the first half of the night.