130 lucky passengers got to view the stunning Aurora lights from the first commercial Southern Lights flight.
Sold out in just five days the chartered Aurora Australis flight was led by Dr Ian Griffin from the Otago Museum.
“It’s a trip I'll remember not only for the amazing photos and lovely views but also for the many amazing people I met during the project".
The Aurora Australis is a beautiful phenomenon caused by electric currents and solar winds passing rapidly over the Earth’s magnetic field, striking atoms in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. The Australis enters the atmosphere at a very high altitude. Tasmanians are often lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the bright lights, and on rare occasions, they can be seen over Victoria. Murray Parkinson space weather specialist from the Bureau of Meteorology explains why the spectacular light show will show up over Australia:
"With a solar superstorm, there is so much energy being driven into the system it usually will expand toward the equator. During a solar maximum [once every 11 years] it may pass over Tasmania, when there is a geomagnetic storm, all the guys and girls keen on taking pictures of aurora australis drive down to the Victorian coast and usually get beautiful photos of the horizon."
Video: Stephen Voss
The photos taken by the passengers on the eight hour Air New Zealand 767 flight were out of this world. Every passenger had a window seat to enjoy the views. Tickets cost $4000 for economy and a whopping $8000 for business and sold out in less than five days.
The flight took place over a seven hour period in the Equinox Aurora period, 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness. Leaving Dunedin airport at 9pnm and returning early this morning. The flight path zig-zagged over the international dateline so passengers on either side of the plane could get a good view of the southern lights.
The next flight is rumoured to be on board a Dreamliner- “We’re hoping it will be a Dreamliner. The other option, of course, is the likes of Air New Zealand have the new A320 which would probably have the range to do what we are wanting to do” says managing director John Harley.
The next Orbit travel is set for 2018, and if its anything like this year’s spectacular show, its time to start saving.
Header: Wikimedia Commons