Commonwealth & World News and Highlights

Southern Lights

While those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are familiar with the Northern Lights, the Southern Hemisphere has its own fantastic light show – the Aurora Australis or Southern Lights. New Zealand, home to the world’s largest Dark Sky Reserve, offers an excellent location to view this magnificent natural light show and a six stamp set was released by New Zealand Post on 8 February to celebrate this fact.

Auroras are the result of electrically charged particles from solar winds reacting with gases in the earth’s atmosphere. Excess energy from these reactions creates a stunning light show that can be seen at the North and South Poles.

The Southern Lights range in colour from pink to green to purple. However, the type of solar wind particle, the type of gas molecule and the electrical state at the time of the collision all have an effect on the eventual colour of the aurora. Due to the lack of natural light and the number of clear nights, one of the best places to see the Southern Lights is the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve in the Mackenzie Basin of the South Island.

It is the southern hemisphere’s sole dark sky reserve and one of only eight in the world. Each of stamps in this issue features a photograph of the Southern Lights at the reserve showing some of the different colours and patterns of light possible.

To read more features like this, see the latest GSM.

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