Passengers on a charter flight from New Zealand to the Antarctic Circle had the thrill of their lives when they flew into the heart of the southern lights, aka the aurora australis, reports LiveScience.
The southern lights, like its counterpart northern lights, or aurora borealis, are considered “unpredictable displays of light in the night sky,” according to NASA.
“While usually a milky greenish color, auroras can also show red, blue, violet, pink and white. The colors appear in a variety of continuously changing shapes,” NASA says. “Sometimes the aurora is so dim and scattered as to be mistaken for clouds or the Milky Way; sometimes it is bright enough to read by.”
Auroras are seen during strong geomagnetic events, like when the sun sends a powerful burst of energy toward Earth, which triggers the brilliant displays in the nighttime skies, usually occurring around the magnetic poles, NASA says.
The 134 passengers on the March 23 flight from New Zealand’s Dunedin Airport, cruising in a Boeing 767, had a perfect view. The following video includes images of the aurora australis taken from different vantage points inside the plane.
The New Zealand charter trip to the Antarctic Circle, dubbed “Flight to the Lights,” was organized by astronomer Ian Griffin, former outreach head of NASA’s Space Telescope Science Institute.
Griffin told the New Zealand Herald that the airliner crossed the International Date Line four times as it zigzagged back and forth to allow people on both sides of the aircraft to have good views of the aurora australis.
Tickets for the flight were sold in pairs ― windows and adjacent seats ― and went for $2,776 for economy and $5,972 for business-class pairs.
“We [didn’t] want to have issues with people fighting about who sits next to the window,” Griffin said. “The assumption was, people who buy a pair of seats will sort it out beforehand.”