STAR gazers could be in for a treat tonight and tomorrow night with particularly strong solar activity set to bring Aurora Australis into view in southern Victoria.
Potentially dramatic light displays will likely be seen across southern parts of Australia Wednesday and Thursday night after a number of flares from the sun on the visible surface in recent weeks.
Bureau of Meteorology Space Weather expert Zahra Bouya said the colourful light shows are relatively rare for this time of the solar cycle and are due to a number of solar eruptions from the sun's visible surface.
"We are currently monitoring two coronal mass ejections (CMEs), which are large clouds of plasma that are ejected from the sun and travel at high speeds through space," Dr Bouya said.
"They are both relatively slow moving and our model predictions have them passing over us on May 15 and 16."
Forecasts around the western region of Victoria point to a cloudy night on Wednesday, but Thursday night is expected to be clear and provide the best viewing opportunities.
"When this material reaches Earth, most of it is deflected by the planet's magnetic field. But as the CME passes over the Earth its magnetic field may connect with ours allowing huge amounts of energy to be transferred to our magnetic field, generating geomagnetic storms that can last for two or three days and produce dramatic auroras over successive nights," Dr Bouya said.
Also known as the southern lights, the aurora will be best seen on clear nights in dark places. Ideally if you can get to higher ground without light pollution from cities, you will get the best view.
The forecast gauge is sitting on a seven (with a maximum of nine) meaning there is a high chance the aurora could be seen with the naked eye.
"While there is a greater chance that Aurora Australis enthusiasts may witness the spectacular show of lights this week, it's never guaranteed," Dr Bouya said.
"To see the aurora, you'll need a very dark and clear night so early morning, after the moon sets, between 3am and 5am, is best over the coming days. Headlands or a dark beach are usually the best viewing spots,"
Bureau of Meteorology's Philip Landvogt said the best viewing conditions in Tasmania would be along the east coast, north of Hobart, although partly cloudy conditions were currently forecast.
"In southern Victoria, cloudy skies are forecast on Wednesday with the best viewing conditions expected on Thursday night when it will be mostly clear with just some isolated fog patches," he said.
Ballarat Observatory manager Judith Bailey said Aurora were a mirror image in the north and the south.
She said one the only reason why Australia traditionally does not often see a strong aurora was the lack of land towards the south pole which made it more difficult to see than in the north.
She added the best way to see the southern lights was to look to the south. She said the higher you go, the more chance you were to see them.
"You will see green near the horizon, yellow, then red as you go higher," she said.
"We can get some wonderful sights, I've seen an aurora from the Ballarat Observatory, but the further you go south the more success you are likely to have."
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