Aurora over Canberra

This column’s recent feature on Canberra’s Antarctica exhibitions, which included reference to the aurora australis (‘‘Chill Factor’’, June 30) which is often seen over Antarctica, prompted several readers, including Jack Thomas, of Kaleen, to ask if anyone had ever spotted an aurora over Canberra.

Witnessing the aurora australis over Canberra’s skies is a rare experience.

One of the few lucky to have seen and photographed an aurora over Canberra is Darren Osborne, who saw the spectacular natural light show on November 24, 2001. ‘‘My partner and I were driving home at 11.30pm when she noticed something unusual from the passenger seat. We pulled off to the side of the road and there was the most amazing sight!’’ Due to their dynamic nature auroras are extremely difficult to photograph, but Darren managed this stunning image.

Have you seen the aurora in Canberra? If so, I’d love to hear from you.

* Update.The following reports of auroras over Canberra were published on 4 August 2012.

It appears that Darren Osborne wasn’t the only person to witness the aurora australis which lit up the night skies over the Canberra region on November 24, 2001 (‘‘Aurora in Canberra’’, July 14).

‘‘On that weekend we were staying at Yarrangobilly Village [near caves of the same name in northern Kosciuszko National Park] and about 11.30pm, I went outside to answer the call of nature and was astounded to see the southern sky shimmering green and yellow,’’ recalls John Brush of Tuggeranong.

‘‘We rushed back inside to wake others, including an American couple staying with us – they had come all the way out from California to view the Leonid meteorite shower from somewhere in central Australia and afterwards they came on to Canberra to do some caving,’’ recalls John, who adds, ‘‘and the aurora ended up being the highlight of their whole trip!’’ Darren’s striking image of the aurora australis in Canberra’s skies promoted several other readers to recount their personal accounts of the spectacular southern lights on other nights.

‘‘Back in the late 1970s when we were living at Higgins, we saw an aurora from the front steps of our house,’’ writes Odille Esmonde-Morgan, of Terranora, NSW. ‘‘We dragged chairs out there and watched the light show for ages. It wasn’t too cold, I remember it as being a holiday period, but not sure of the month,’’ recalls my correspondent.

Anne Waight remembers ‘‘a really spectacular aurora in the late 1950s’’ which she witnessed from Reid. ‘‘At first it seemed to be just a very bright sunset but continued on for much longer than usual and the colours began to change and to move, quite difficult to describe and even a little eerie until we realised what it was. It continued for a few hours,’’ she says.

Meanwhile, Peter Campbell, of Cook, has been lucky enough to witness the natural phenomenon twice. ‘‘I saw a vague dull red glowing in the south when camping in the Budawang Mountains sometime in the 1990s and a proper spectacular one, also in the 1990s on the way driving to Melbourne,’’ writes Peter.’’