Southern Aurora — high alert

Photographed today, the giant sunspots shown above, are good indications that there could be some interesting Southern Aurora displays tonight or tomorrow night.

Shevill Mathers. our resident planetary expert, suggests not being deterred by the presence of the moon high in the sky.

“It will reduce the effects somewhat, but this should not stop you from looking to the south during the evening,” he says. “If it is a big display then we would expect to see various levels of activity extending perhaps from east to west and maybe overhead.”

He took this close-up two days ago.

"Precise timing is not easy to predict, however, the effects from a massive CME (coronal mass ejection) takes 24 to 48 hours to reach earth, which gives us some warning to be on the lookout from early tonight after sunset. Activity has already been observed in the northern hemisphere.

“An ‘Aurora Alert’ indicates that the giant sunspots that caused the wonderful ‘light show’ a couple of weeks ago, have survived their journey around the Sun and are now facing earth again. The naked eye group of giant spots is many times the diameter of earth and it continues to hurl huge masses of solar particles from its active regions.

“It is rare for a sunspot group to last so long and this one is an exception. The huge solar flares being generated within this complex group will pose threats to communications here on earth and maybe in some regions will cause spikes and disruptions to power supplies.

“This is not a good time to be undertaking space flights, due to the high energy particles being released from these massive flares.

“Tasmania, being close to the south pole, is well placed for good auroral displays.”