Auckland photographer stuns experts, captures aurora lights from local beach

ByDavid M. Conte

Nov 4, 2021
An Auckland photographer lucked out on a beach on the west coast, capturing a rare geomagnetic storm from Tāmaki Makaurau.

Matthew Davison / Supplied

An Auckland photographer lucked out on a beach on the west coast, capturing a rare geomagnetic storm from Tāmaki Makaurau.

A photographer achieved a rare feat overnight by capturing the Southern Lights from an Auckland beach and leaving with stunning results.

Matthew Davison, an Auckland resident, has been trying to capture the Aurora Australis for over six years and has managed to capture four “really good shows” – but never in his home region.

When his phone alerted him Thursday night that a strong geomagnetic storm was on the way, Davison dropped everything and headed straight for Kariotahi Beach near Waiuku, where he captured a magnificent light show.

“I had no expectation of seeing anything because Auckland is not known as a place to see the aurora. I went to the beach, away from the light pollution, took test photos and it was there, ”Davison said.

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Capturing Aurora Australis requires a number of specific factors to function well – a rare combination of high geomagnetic conditions, clear skies, and distance from any light pollution.

Davison is part of an online community of aurora hunters, who were surprised to see Davison succeed in capturing the photos of Auckland.

Matthew Davison / Supplied

Davison is part of an online community of aurora hunters, who were surprised to see Davison succeed in capturing the photos of Auckland.

The lockdown made Davison’s niche hobby difficult, in January last year he traveled to Alaska to see the Northern Lights. He is part of an online community of aurora hunters, who were surprised to see Davison succeed in capturing the photos of Auckland.

“Having it in my own backyard is such a treat,” Davison said.

“It’s nothing compared to the South Island, but it’s quite new to capture the lights in the sky of the far north.”

Otago University professor Craig Rodger said the photos

Matthew Davison / Supplied

Otago University professor Craig Rodger said the photos “painted him surprised.”

Davison’s photos didn’t just surprise themselves, astronomical experts were amazed that the overnight geomagnetic disturbance could be captured at Tāmaki Makaurau.

Otago University professor Craig Rodger said the photos “painted him surprised.”

“Modern cameras are much more sensitive than the naked eye, but I have to say I’m really surprised at the aurora seen from anywhere near Auckland,” said Rodger.

“The historical instances where this has happened have required events of mind-boggling magnitude, such as the greatest events of a few decades, which was not the case last night.”

A geomagnetic storm is a disturbance of the Earth’s magnetic field caused by the solar wind. Auroras are common, but only at very high latitudes – places like Scandinavia and Antarctica.

Ian Griffin Museum / Otago

Otago Museum Director Ian Griffin captured the entire Hoopers Inlet light show.

“It is quite rare for the aurora to be high in the sky in Dunedin, and even rarer for the aurora to be bright enough that the colors are visible to the naked eye. He has to be really brilliant, ”Rodger said.

“As one travels up the country, the risk of aurora decreases as the size of the geomagnetic disturbances required to ‘push’ the auroras north becomes larger and larger.”

Southern light exhibits in 2021 are expected to be some of the best in years. Otago museum director and astronomer Dr Ian Griffin captured time-lapse video of the Aurora Australis in March.


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