A spectacular aurora australis, or southern lights — the southern hemisphere’s version of the northern lights — lit up the skies above New Zealand on Tuesday, as stargazers were treated to a dazzling bright-pink-and-green light show.
Several local photographers managed to capture incredible images. One of them, Paul Le Comte, a 46-year-old from Dunedin, New Zealand, captured the scene above from the Otago Peninsula in Dunedin shortly after 2 a.m. local time.
“The display was so massive that my widest angle lens couldn’t fit it all in,” Le Comte told Yahoo News. “[It looked like] the whole southern hemisphere was on fire.”
Other photographers in the area captured similarly stunning images.
On Twitter, Le Comte urged fellow Dunedinites to wake up for the best aurora conditions in memory.
This was Aurora oval 1/2hr ago - best in over a year! pic.twitter.com/QCOdpYjgIx— Paul Le Comte (@five15design) March 17, 2015
Kp8! BEST AURORA spotting in over a decade. Look at the sky! #Dunedin— Paul Le Comte (@five15design) March 17, 2015
Auroras are caused by the collision of gaseous particles in the Earth’s atmosphere with electrically charged particles released by the sun’s atmosphere. They are visible year-round but are generally most vivid around the spring and fall equinoxes.
Pink auroras are relatively common in New Zealand, Le Comte added, “but not this intense.”
According to Sun Viewer, which monitors space weather, the colors of an aurora depend on how high in the atmosphere they form.
The auroras visible from New Zealand were estimated to be 900 km high, Le Comte said.