1. Look out for strong solar activity
Auroras are not going to present themselves any old night in New Zealand. For the Southern Lights to be visible in New Zealand, there needs to be a geomagnetic storm. Check Aurora Australis forecast websites like Service Aurora or the Space Weather Prediction Centre. What you’re looking for is the aurora strength which is measured in Kp. Kp ranges between 0 and 9 0 being the weakest, 9 being the strongest. Anything classed as Kp5 or above is considered a geomagnetic storm.
2. Head south!
Since the Southern Lights takes place around the South Pole, it makes sense to head south, right? One of the best places to be is Stewart Island for Southern Lights viewings. The Maori name, Rakiura, means “glowing skies” so that’s saying something! However, the Southern Lights are often seen as far north as Christchurchand are rarely seen as far north as Auckland. For some of the best spots, check out 5 Places to See The Southern Lights in New Zealand.
3. Look on a clear night
The Southern Lights happen above the clouds, so you will need a clear night to be able to see them. That means no cloud cover, so check the weather forecasts!
4. Get away from artificial lights
The best way to be able to see, well, anything in the dark is to reduce the number of artificial lights around you. Get away from cities and towns and find a nice dark environment. On top of that, try to resist looking at your phone or using any white lights yourself. It takes about 20 minutes for your eyes to adjust to darkness after being exposed to white light. Use a red light if possible.
5. … and moonlight
If there’s a solar storm on the same night as a bright moon, then your viewing experience of the Southern Lights will likely be hindered by the moonlight.
6. Get high!
No, not that type of high! The high ground tends to make the viewing experience of the Southern Lights clearer. That’s why you will find that most observatories are on hills or mountains.
7. Or go to the coast facing south
Looking out across the ocean gives you a good perspective of the horizon and hopefully, some good aurora views! If you can’t get to high ground, head to the coast facing south. The coastlines of Dunedin, the Catlins and Stewart Island all have coasts ideal for aurora gazing.
8. Midnight is the best time for aurora viewing
The widest part of the aurora is when the sun is on the opposite side of the Earth to where you are, so around midnight is the best time to view auroras in New Zealand.
9. Winter is the best time of year for seeing the southern lights
Although auroras happen all year round, autumn and winter (between March and September) in New Zealand is the best time of the year to see the Southern Lights. That’s mainly because there are fewer daytime hours.