Northern Lights in Southern Hemisphere spark fright

Written by By By Andrew Harrer, CNN Staff Writer

With the sensational lights of the Northern Lights appearing almost nightly in northern Canada, the image of a similar spectacle in the Southern Hemisphere is sending star gazers into a frenzy.

Titanium cladding a complex of 18 million lights has been set up in the Wellington region of New Zealand, the first of hundreds expected to help see the show, according to the New Zealand Herald.

On any given night, the lights rise from flat, open ground in the area and move slowly in a spiral. The formations change dramatically in the nighttime skies and can reach hundreds of millions of kilometers above the earth.

More than 9,000 people turned out for last year’s event, and New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and a small group of school children sat in silence in the snow to enjoy the show, the Herald reported.

Triumph over adversity

“If you watch the lights with your eyes, it seems almost impossible to believe that it can’t just go anywhere,” Ardern said of the spectacular light spectacle, which is sometimes described as a combination of red, green and blue light waves.

“The static pinpricks of light that we’ve got, and then you get that glimmer, and that glow and you suddenly realize how close you are to this incredible special place that is Mother Nature.”

After losing 75% of its cover in October 2014 when it swept across half the globe, the aurora borealis, as it’s called, was much brighter in 2016 and 2017, according to the website Northern Lights Central.

NASA video from the American space agency in January 2017 shows an aurora stretching from southern Europe to as far east as Africa.

There’s nothing quite like the light display, according to zoologist George Ackerley, author of “Northern Lights: The Legend of Aurora Borealis.”

“It’s a wonderful spectacle that only occurs about half a dozen times a year on average,” he told CNN. “At times, there are so many lights that you actually can’t see anything else on the horizon, and when the lights form into spirals, it looks like an ethereal arch.”

To ring in 2019, the New Zealand government has created a mobile app and website to monitor the northern lights that features images, videos and information about the national parks where they are visible.

It’ll be a different story in Southern Australia — where it might be a week until the lights appear — but for those living in New Zealand, it’s a good opportunity to get an up-close look at a phenomenon that’s unique to the planet.

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