• Aurora chases - 2003-2005


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    Aural glow under southern constellations - Township of Cave

    I barely understood what the lights where but had heard a lot about the spectacle after the November 2002 shows. This was to be my first photographic encounter with our Southern Lights. I had made some preparation by buying high speed film and Alan Gilmore of the Mt John Observatory said he would give me a call when they were next visible.

    My Camera need attention too. It had a damaged base plate from a deer fence incident and was wobbly on the tripod. I worked out a neat configuration of packaging tape which held it on tightly and in a such a way the film back would still open.

    Within a short time I got the call and in a hazy evening during 18 August 2003 I headed out as a total novice. I decided the clearest vantage point would be from the Brothers Range over looking the township of Cave . The rays were clearly visible above the head lights. Before I could get out and find a place to make photos they shrank into nothing. I headed up on to the Brothers and continually scanned the sky in all directions. I didn't even know where to look.

    There was a dense red glow everywhere. The atmosphere was so heavy the insulators on the power lines were fizzing. Then after several hours, a drained thermos, and many chapters of my talking book, it happened. No mistaking where either.

    What a show a great show. For half an hour the rays reached up from the green, coloured pink and drifted, the sky pulsed into a crescendo streaming glows, my heart jumped and the film underexposed.

    All that could be rescued was the southern green glow above the dark line of the Hunters Hills. For long after I wondered why they were so called. As a kid we went there to hunt wallabies, so I thought the hills were for 'us hunters'. I was to learn of Nimrod, and his Hunters of old Mesopotamia. That high point in the distance, the dominant landmark for all my life, is called Mt Nimrod. Click!

    During the lull, I had noticed the positron of Crux (the Southern Cross) and made a stack of four shots for the vertical panorama shown above. Stitching these together had to be very precise as any astronomer would instantly recognise any double ups and omissions in the stars. A better exposure of the lights of Cave was merged in and presto.

    This shot was becoming very meaningful to me, but for some reason I needed to outline the constellations as well. So here we have Nimrod below astral charts - the same astral charts that predicted Abraham's birth? Not likely. This is the Southern Hemisphere. Then, there is the erie 'bonfire' light in the sky to consider. A version from Babel times? Hmmm.

    Suddenly I had to know everything about Auroras, then the sun's physics and the rest of the Cosmos. The pages on Pursuing the Aurora are the current result and information on the phenomena can be found there.

    Time Running Out

    One thing was clear. If I was to ever get good photos I was going to have not only understand but live and breathe the heavenly lights. Time is running out. Yes, the probability of aurora over the next five years is rapidly diminishing. This is due to an eleven year cycle and we are well into the solar minimum phase - at time of low solar activity, few solar flares, little shaking of the earths magnetic fields, and seldom charging of the plasmic lights in the sky.

    Within a few weeks Alan called again. We were absolutely clouded in. By this time I had learn 't how many people around the world were prepared to drive or fly hundreds of miles for the chance to see the Aurora. So a 80km dash into the high country seemed very reasonable. Also a chance for my wife to see her first ever view. My youngest child was not to be left out either and by midnight on 30 October 2003 we were sitting under Mt John gazing in awe. The moon was just setting but in no way could it drown the intensity of the lights. Another cracker of a night - Thank you Alan.

    While my camera clicked away, and for no logical reason, my spectator partners retreated back into the Landrover with asthma attacks.


    "Thu, 30 Oct 2003 - Just when we thought it was over, the Sun blasted another gigantic X-class flare directly at the Earth. The flare was detected by the GOES satellite on October 29 at 2037 GMT (3:37 pm EST), and it peaked about 10 minutes later. The solar storm from this flare should reach us in a little less than a day, and cause another round of communication disruptions and beautiful auroras. The timing of two X-class flares happening this close together, and aimed directly at the Earth is

  • Aurora pursuit

  • Best aurora seen for 9 years

    I am counting every little star in this shot for such amazing luck. No one can appreciate just how thankful I am. After eleven years of chasing countless auroras, everything came together during these two panic stricken minutes last Thursday night for what I consider the pinnacle of my panoramic photography work.