Aurora Watching - See the Southern Lights!
Pedder Wilderness Lodge is one of the best places in the world to view the aurora australis, as the hotel looks directly south across Lake Pedder and the mountains beyond. This outlook makes for incredible photography opportunities, which capture the full colour and majesty of the aurora australis, while occasionally the aurora is visible to the naked eye during strong events.
We believe we're one of the best spots to view an aurora as we're far from any light pollution, have an amazing southerly aspect, and the comforts of the hotel are never far away while you're out in the cold hunting for that perfect aurora australis photo.
Here are some of our top tips about how and where to see an aurora
- When you can see an aurora - the regularity and strength of an aurora depends on the activity of the sun, and nothing else. It's not influenced by seasons or time of year here on Earth, but solar flares, Coronal Mass Ejections and other sun activity. If you're planning a trip to see an aurora, plan on spending at least a few nights with us to increase your chances, but unfortunately we can't guarantee a sighting. Prediction of an aurora is difficult and not possible more than a few days out. Generally a few different indicators can be used to predict an aurora, including:
- Recent solar activity
- Forecasts by space weather agencies
- Monitoring space weather instruments and measurements
- Checking anticipated aurora oval maps is an indicator, but seems to be the least reliable method
- Where to see an aurora - right here on the edge of Lake Pedder! How much you can see of an aurora depends on how strong it is. They're centred over Antarctica, and only when they are quite strong will they be seen at higher latitudes. Typically we get auroras that are visible over the horizon, but they have been known to climb high in the sky during strong events. When you're looking for an aurora, try these tips:
- Find a spot that has a clear view to the south and away from all light sources and light pollution. Our front grassed area overlooking the lake is ideal for this.
- Tune into a live group which posts alerts, such as the Aurora Australis Tasmania group on Facebook, which will give you the heads up on activity
- Continue to watch, as the aurora is always changing and shifting from moment to moment. One moment you won't see much, the next minute you may see beams reaching up into the sky.
- How to capture an aurora with your camera - you can capture an aurora with most cameras, provided you can set it correctly, generally on manual mode. Things you need to keep an eye on are:
- Exposure time. This is how long the camera will take in light for when shooting an image. The longer you set the camera open for, the more light it will get. Typically we recommend an exposure time of 10 - 30 seconds, but try a variety of exposure times to see what is working for you on the night.
- Aperture. This is how wide the lens will be open during your photo. For aurora photography you want to get it as wide as possible, to get more light into the camera. Typically we recommend about f/2.8, however this will depend on your lens as some are able to open wider, but many zoom lenses cannot reach f/2.8. This is okay, just experiment and see how you go!
- ISO. This is the sensitivity of your camera to light, where 100 is least sensitive to light and the higher the number means more sensitive. Keep in mind that the more sensitive you go, the more "noisy" or "grainy" the image will be, so keep it as low as possible. We generally recommend 400 to 1000 ISO, but experiment and see what is best for your camera.
- Focus. While it's best to try and focus on a star and get that as sharp as possible, sometimes that's not entirely practical. A good starting point is to wind your focus out to infinity (a sideways figure 8 symbol), then back a little on manual focus. Once it's set, don't touch it!
- Mobile phones - It is possible to capture an aurora using your phone camera, but the quality of the image depends on the quality of your camera, and whether you can both hold it steady (or prop it somewhere) and access the manual settings described above. If in doubt, give it a try and see what comes out!
Here's an example of what you might see from the lodge, through your camera!
Credit to https://www.facebook.com/jensenchua.photography/ for the fantastic photo.
A note about viewing the aurora australis with the naked eye:
The aurora australis at this latitude typically appears more as a black and white swirl in the southern sky, rather than the colours that are seen in popular photography. Cameras are able to capture more of the available light and show the colours that are really there, while some colour may be apparent to the eye during strong events.