The West

Southern lights shine in midnight sky (cloned for SW 1342659028)
The image of aurora australis captured near the Leschenault Inlet.

Spectacular photographs of aurora in the night sky have been captured near Australind this week.

The images of aurora australis - the southern hemisphere equivalent of the northern lights - were taken by Paul Pichugin on the edge of the Leschenault Inlet soon after midnight on Tuesday morning.

The aurora is the green and red glow at the bottom of the picture.

Astronomy Education Services director Richard Tonello said opportunities to see aurora were becoming more frequent as solar flare activity increased.

"The sun is going through an active period now, it's culminating up to an 11-year cycle called solar maximum," he said.

"That produces a lot of sun spots and when you have a lot of sun spots, you have a real chance of getting a thing called a coronal mass ejection or a solar flare."

Mr Tonello said a large solar flare had launched from the sun last Thursday, throwing out huge amounts of energy.

"It took a couple of days to reach us and it hit our upper atmosphere and caused it to glow and it just looks awesome," he said.

Mr Tonello said frequent aurora would continue over the next year, with the sun not due to reach the peak of its cycle until 2013.

Mr Pichugin said he had gone out with a camera after keeping an eye on space weather activity such as solar storms.

"I decided to head south and see what I could find and hopefully get out from underneath the cloud and found a clear patch in between Mandurah and Bunbury," he said.

The West Australian

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