In late March, 130 lucky passengers got up close and personal to the elusive Southern Lights in a special chartered flight run by Air New Zealand.
The exclusive opportunity sold out in just five days, with prices ranging from around $1400 for economy seats and $3000 for business.
The Southern Lights, or Aurora Australis, is the Southern Hemisphere equivalent to the Northern Lights, but are often difficult to catch a a glimpse of.
The natural phenomenon is caused when electric currents and solar winds pass rapidly over the Earth’s magnetic field, sending atoms crashing into the Earth’s upper atmosphere.
"I didn't think we would actually see such a spectacular display, even by the naked eye," passenger Nick Wong, who signed up on a whim after seeing the trip advertised on social media, told Phys.
"It was really great to be a part of an adventure with like-minded people who were equally or more excited at viewing this phenomena as I was."
The flight left from Dunedin and flew close to the Antarctic Circle for about five hours to be in the best position to view the lights. On the plane, only seats on the rows closest to the windows were sold, leaving the middle of the plane empty.
Otago Museum Director Ian Griffin came up with the idea for the trip and said he's thinking about running another flight next year.
"I thought it was absolutely brilliant," he said to Phys. "We were right under it. There were beautiful streamers, auroral streamers. This green-colored stuff that moves quickly, it looks like you're looking into a green, streaky river."
Passengers shared their photos on a Facebook group; many of them thrilled with the trip however at least one passenger expressed their disappointment with the lights.
"Was pretty disappointing. Unless you had a three thousand dollar camera you couldn't take a pic of anything. Could barely see it with your eyes, didn't get told any of this before the flight either. Was guttered when after 5 hours on a plane it just looked like a cloud. Honestly felt it was a massive let down," the commenter, who goes by the handle MrSafetyCatch, said.
"Because it's natural phenomena, you can't predict what you're going to see,” Griffin said. "What we tried to do was convey what we thought people would see on the flight."
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