You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
While the rising moon is always beautiful, most astronomers don’t like observing at full moon because bright moonlight washes our view of the sky.
That is a little bit of a shame because, as we approach the equinox on September 23, we are entering what is traditionally the prime time for viewing the southern lights and bright moonlight will make any display harder to see.
Auroras tend to be more common near the spring and autumn equinoxes because the sun and earth’s magnetic fields are lined up for a few weeks at this time of year. There is also another reason to raise our hopes for a chance of auroral activity. The sun is becoming more active, with more and more sunspots visible on its surface.
All it will take is for one of these sunspots to explode and hurl material towards earth in what astronomers call a coronal mass ejection. If that happens, provided the sky is clear, stargazers in our region will have a front-row seat for some auroral action!
Since moving to New Zealand in 2013 I’ve seen several beautiful auroras around the time of the full moon. This week’s accompanying photograph was taken during a remarkable display I witnessed from Hoopers Inlet in September 2015.