After chasing it for more than two years I was finally rewarded with two displays of Auroa Australis (Southern lights) within a week visible from Mornington Peninsula, not far from Melbourne. The nights were warm an clear and the Moon was not in the sky either – I could not have asked for better conditions.

The red color of this aurora is caused by¬† the charged particles from the Sun exciting¬† oxygen atoms high in the Earth’s atmosphere. Hopefully there will be more to come as Sun’s activity increases in 2012-13.

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Being able to photograph it all night I came up with a nice video. The brighter Aurora happened on January 22nd and the smaller one, featured in the middle section, was from January 16th followed by a rather bright Moonrise.


37 Comments for this entry

  1. DanielF:

    Aside from the Aurora, is that sky really visible like that in that part of Australia? Never ever seen anything like that, it is amazing.

    • terrastro:

      Yes, you need to be far away from man made lights to see sky like that. The southern horison in Flinders is above the ocean so that helps.

  2. leo reyes:

    hi. first, it is a excellent work!!! beautiful!!
    i have some questions for you:
    did you use some software like twixtor?
    i want to know the features of the photos, like the focus, the expusure time, etc.
    did you use an equatorial mount?
    I would be very grateful if you could answer me.
    sorry for my english.
    greetings from uruguay

    • terrastro:

      The exposure parameters were 30 seconds, f/2.8, ISO 3200, untracked. Focusing in Live View on a star.
      For panning I just use Alt-Az motorised mount.

      I assemble the time lapses in Sony Vegas, no extra software used.

      • Chris:

        Hi sir fantastic work of course. How did you defeat the star streaking/trails in a 30″ exposure. Did software help? if you can help i just want to make a nice galactic picture. 2.8 on a 16 – 35 lens or 14mm canon 5D im guessing, thought you may of gone to bulb for the crazy long streaking(circle).

        thank you very much

        • terrastro:

          Thanks, at 14-20 mm on FF sensor you can go up to 30 seconds without noticeable star trails. For star trails I just stack 30 second exposures using Maximum function

          • Chris:

            Stellar again love it, yeah D700 is a real beast feels like a TANK.

            Ok stacking them makes sense, with 30 sec i see about 2mm star trails(tear drop shaped) Crop sensor. recommend a 1.4 lens (not very wide but more light absorption) 24 1.4

  3. dale rogers:

    Hey Mate,
    WOW! I get the same view from Cape Woolamai but have never been able to capture the beauty like that. hats off to a fantastic set-up and technique! Out of curiosity, what time was the aurora visible?

    I’ll keep coming back to see your work.


    • terrastro:

      Yes it was amazing. No significant color but strong grey/blue columns moving slowly across the horison. Pretty much like a black and white version of the video.

  4. Beren:

    Great video! I’ve only ever seen the sky like that once whilst camping in the middle of WA. Truely an amazing sight.
    Thanks for sharing.

  5. Nayasha:

    Magical immenseness!

  6. Greg:

    Fanatstic images and video! Really specatular work. I would love to see this in person at least once in my life.

    For the third and fourth photos at the top of this page.., what techinique did you use to accomplish that background with the stars?

  7. Frank:

    Wow, stunning. That made my day, thanks!

  8. Nate:

    That is without a doubt one of the most amazing videos I have ever seen.

    • terrastro:


  9. pluto pup:

    Mate, absolutely beautiful! The best I have seen, (I’m a member of an international astronomy site) as you show great artistry with the capturing of the stars, the Aurora and the dawn, just beautiful. When I was 7, in Grade 2, in Adelaide, my dad took us out the front of our home to see an Aurora Australis. It was huge! A giant red shimmering and moving red curtain of light, so bright, yet we lived just a few miles out of the city, in Brighton Gardens. I was terrified! But, at school, we were asked to draw what we saw; I still have that drawing today and my dad, being science minded and a brilliant exploration geologist, inspired my love of the heavens and the natural world. Thanks again, you brought it all back for me, and a lovely memory of my dad. Cheers, Justin

  10. alfred molina:

    wow….!!!!…amazing….great work, thank you…wish I had a view like these from here in las vegas, but we have too much light pollution….appreciate what you are doing…!!!!

  11. Adrian:


    Thanks for your fantastic video. I’m from Melbourne and despite being a regular hiker down at the Prom and in the high country, have never seen anything like that here or realised it occurs.

    Are there websites which predict when solar activity will be most likely to generate an aurora in Victoria?

    Does the aurora look like your video when viewed by the naked eye? i.e. the moving waves of colours etc.

    Thanks for any advice!

    • terrastro:

      Hi Adrian,
      What I saw visually that night was a black-and-white version of the video. There were columns of grey light moving slowly across the horison. To see thye colour the light would have to be more intense meaning stronger geaomagnetic storm.

      I use these two pages as my main Aurora prediction tool:


      • Adrian:

        Thanks Alex, appreciate the response.

        All the best.

  12. Leo Jun:

    Dear Alex,

    I’m Korean and I saw your great photo through internet.
    You did really great job and I can feel your efforts.
    Thank you for sharing such a gorgeous view.

    Kind Regards,
    Leo Jun

  13. Neita Collins:

    This is so beautiful…brings tears to my eyes! Thank you for sharing the wonder and awe of our universe–a gift, indeed!

    Missouri Ozarks, USA

  14. Mel:

    Hi terrastro, since once seeing an Aurora borealis in Bodo in Northern Norway that completely took my breath away for 2 hours, I’m really keen to see an australis one !! someone told me there was one here in tasmania two days before australia day. I would LOVE to see one like the one you captured. Much more I would like to try making a timelapse, there is just one think I would like to ask you (so I know in the rare event what to do) my canon 20D takes the same time to process/store the image as it takes to capture, in this case 30s. The interval would have to be much more frequent than 1 image/minute in order for it to look smooth later. Am I thinking right? Should I just buy a newer camera?
    Thank you for sharing your artworks and your knowledge,
    Love this universe
    Mel from Germany/Tasmania

    • terrastro:

      You might need to turn off Long Exposure Noise Reduction (Dark frame subtraction) then the interval should be no more than one second

      • Mel:

        You are amazing! I’m so glad you told me that!
        thank you! thank you! thank you!
        that was the only thing holding me back!
        THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!! =D

  15. frank:

    The video is amazing. Bravo!
    And your site is great, congratulations for your pictures.

  16. Michael:

    I was watching “Contact” (with Jodie Foster) the other day and the phrase “should of sent a poet” was used to describe a beuty she had seen and was unable to “sufficiently describe”.
    You have not only captured the essence of that wonder but have shared it with thousands of souls who shall forever be enriched by your gift.


  17. Ksutw:

    Once again, admire your creativity! Simple earth people not be able to see this yourself;)

  18. shirelly:

    i form CHINA,i love your photoes,i’m so envy you,iwish u good luck ,thanks your website ,loveu all.

  19. Vint26:

    Dear Alex, what programs do you use for the depiction, highlight and color correction of the Milky Way? Thank you! =Vitaly

    • terrastro:

      Nikon Capture NX2 and sometimes Photoshop CS5. Main adjustments are in bringing up shadows and colour correction because of the variance in the atmospheric colours (low grade permanent aurora).

  20. Hazel:

    My name is Hazel and I want to do astrophotography for one of my year 11 photography assignments,
    I was just wondering what settings you would need to photograph the stars like this and how long a shutter speed I would need, as well as what programs I should use after I’ve taken them.


    • terrastro:

      For the shutter speed – use the 600 rule of thumb:
      divide the 600 by the effective focal length. For example with 18mm lens on Canon 600D (1.6 crop factor) you would get: 600/(18*1.6)=20 seconds, ISO 3200. You can go a little longer if you point your camera towards true South or North. I do my processing in Nikon Capture NX2 and Photoshop but you can use any image editor you like.

  21. Aurora C. Monroe:

    Greetings from Virginia, U.S.A!
    Your video was simply divine! Thank you for sharing this with us. Throughout your video we saw spots of light move across the surface of the ocean at the horizon and we could not help but wonder what that was. Would you be able to tell us? Again, your work is simply stunning.

    Best Regards,
    Robert & Aurora

    • terrastro:

      These are ships coming in and out of the Port Phillip Bay in Melbourne.

  22. Adele:

    Wow, what a mind blowing vid! Amazing job I can’t stop watching it!!!! Is there a way to know when the next southern lights may be visible (is there a weather website or something I could refer to?) or is it just luck? I frequently visit Mornington Peninsula and it’s long been a dream of mine to witness the aurora.

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