The first charter flight that flew close to the Antarctic Circle from New Zealand returned on Friday with excited passengers having a close look at the Aurora Australis phenomenon in green hues, also known as Southern Lights.
Buoyed by the good response, the organizer is looking to plan more fights in the future.
The initiative was taken by Ian Griffin, an Otago museum director and astronomer himself. Having flown in a NASA observatory plane as a guest, he was keen to revisit the Southern Lights and share the excitement with others.
"We've traveled two-thirds of the way to the south pole, seen an incredible display of the southern lights, got lovely pictures and were home in time for breakfast," Griffin said.
He said beautiful auroral streamers and green-colored hues moving swiftly created a feeling that they were watching a green river.
To ensure good darkness, the journey was fixed on a day proximate to the equinox. The plane traveled more than 60 degrees latitude south with a viewing time of almost five hours.
Tickets of the chartered Boeing 767 for 134 seats were sold out in five days flat. Only window seats and the adjacent ones were sold for optimum viewing with the aircraft's middle part kept empty.
Priced at NZ$4,000 or $2,800 for the economy and NZ$8,000 or $5,600 for business class.
Aurora Australis and its northern counterpart Aurora Borealis occur when the Earth's magnetic field interacts with electrically charged particles emitted by the sun.
Southern Lights Excites Plane Passengers
Peering through the aircraft's window, the passengers enjoyed an extraordinarily grand view of the aurora lights.
Many star-struck passengers shared their exciting experience.
"Our lives are forever altered by this incredible experience and we are eternally grateful to have been a part of this remarkable event", said passenger Roz Charlton on Facebook.
Rafael, from Spain, responded immediately to the online advertisement and decided to take "this adventure."
Passengers like Nick Wong were also inspired by the idea from social media.
"I didn't think we would actually see such a spectacular display, even by the naked eye," he said and added that Aurora Borealis or the Northern Lights is his next target.
Commenting on the excitement showed by most passengers while watching the southern lights, Mark Hathaway, a TV journalist said they were like kids at Christmas.
Conditions For Best View Of Southern Lights
Aurora Australis is one of the natural wonders that is associated with New Zealand.
The Southern Lights, compared to Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights are relatively less known. However, right conditions can offer an unforgettable night as a play of colors worth remembering all the time.
The optimal viewing of Southern Lights depends on a combination of best time, weather conditions, and the right place.
In New Zealand, the aurora activity in green and pink hues is often supplemented with green veils that light up the sky.
Solar winds are highly energized electrically charged particles coming from solar winds that enter the Earth's atmosphere and react with gasses in the Earth's atmosphere.
The magnetosphere guards the Earth against solar winds. However, some of the charged particles penetrate the magnetosphere at the north and south poles and interact with the atmospheric gasses. The resultant transfer of energy between the gasses and solar wind electrons show up as pretty lights of the aurora.