Aurora Australis – naked eye v camera

As I have seen so many questions on Facebook from newbies to aurora viewing ask some variant of the question  “Do you see colour with the naked eye?”, I decided to show some examples.  I have desaturated the colour files, it gives a reasonable idea of what you usually see, although usually somewhat FAINTER than these images show.  In a strong aurora you can see some colour, mostly red or green, but usually fleeting and faint.

The naked eye does not have the dynamic range to see the colours of the weaker auroral events, which is why we use long exposures when shooting tithe camera.  Most of these were 15-25 seconds, at high ISO settings.

I hope this is helpful to those wishing to go out to view.  Everyone’s vision is different, too, you may see colour and I may not, or vice versa, even when we are standing side by side.

There are many useful Facebook groups, I have listed them, with links, at the end of this article.


And for an explanation of the aurora and what causes the various phenomena, see good old Wikipedia!

And most importantly – enjoy the show!!

From the top

  1.   Beams are often seen during the aurora, they are ion waves. You will see the beams flicker up, they look like someone shining a torch, and they ‘run along’ in one direction and then back (usually).  Night of 7/8 October 2015.  Mortimer Bay beach, Tasmania

2.  Picket fence or piano keys, night of 7/8 November 2015.  Goat Bluff, Tasmania.  This phenomena was seen of to the west of the normal southern aurora alignment.  The beams were a forerunner to the proton arc (#3 below) and the white amorphous cloud at the top of them was the beginning of that phenomena.

3.  The proton arc at its height.  The most exciting aurora I have ever seen, I consider myself very privileged to have captured this.

4.  The ‘blob’ event of 19 March 2015.  Blobs occur at an angle to the normal southern oriented aurora – this one was almost due west.  Naked eye it just looked like a funny cloud.  The start was the small blob, then it extended to the long bar.



Then Facebook groups – general ones and state specific.  I have NOT included ‘secret’ groups or Alert Now groups, you’ll find links to those on the various pages for your area.

Aurora Australis Chasers and Night Photography

Aurora Australis Tasmania

Southern Hemisphere Aurora Chasers

If you are in NZ, the Group there is Aurora Australis.  (If you are in Tassie and waiting, a peek here can be good, as they are 2 hours ahead of us, you can see what’s happening and make your move.)

Aurora Hunters Vistoria

Aurora Australis NSW / ACT

Aurora Hunters NSW, SA and ACT

Aurora Australis Western Australia

Aurora Australis Science

Aurora Hits And Misses

Southern Aurora Hunters North of 35.° S

And on from the northern hemisphere – if they are having action during our day – their night it can be of some use in keeping an eye on what the action id going – strengthening, waning etc.

AUK – Aurora UK


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