We have lift off – inaugural aurora flight set for take-off from Dunedin

A vivid display of the Aurora Australis, seen from Nasa's flying observatory Sofia on a night flight out of ...
IAN GRIFFIN

A vivid display of the Aurora Australis, seen from Nasa's flying observatory Sofia on a night flight out of Christchurch, July 17-18, 2016.

Dr Ian Griffin aims for the stars.

The Dunedin man is behind the first southern hemisphere flight to the Aurora Australis.

The chartered flight, organised by the Dunedin branch of travel agency Orbit, is confirmed for March 23, 2017.

The flight path for the inaugural trip from Dunedin to catch the aurora.
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The flight path for the inaugural trip from Dunedin to catch the aurora.

Griffin said the idea had gone from being theoretical to "put your money where your mouth is". 

READ MORE: Southern lights from high above New Zealand

"The challenge now is to sell enough tickets to make this thing happen."

The plane will leave Dunedin and fly south towards the Aurora Oval, "which is an ever-present aurora".

"You are almost certain to see an aurora."

Griffin, the Otago Museum director and former head of public outreach at NASA's Space Telescope Science Institute, was inspired to arrange the trip after flying with Nasa's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (Sofia) earlier this year.

"We went out on night that was moonlit and what I would call a rubbish aurora night in Dunedin, and we got some astounding views, so that really inspired me."

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Aurora flights were common in the northern hemisphere, but the Dunedin flight would be the first in the southern hemisphere.

"No-one has attempted this before and we are quite excited by it".

Griffin, who is paying for his own ticket, said he would be speaking on the flight, alongside astrophotographer Mark Gee, who would give tips on photographing night skies.

Lights would be kept off on the full service flight so people could view the stars, he said.

Another highlight of the journey would be crossing the international dateline four times, with the plane set to "zig zag" to allow passengers on both sides of the aircraft to see the views.

"We did not want to be in the business of policing people on the flight, so we are selling window seats.

"That meant everybody would get a great view."

The tickets would not be cheap for the seven to eight hour flight, he said.

Each person would effectively buy a pair of economy tickets, with economy costing under $4000 and business class $8500.

The charter needed to sell 150 seats, but Griffin had so far fielded interest from New Zealand and overseas.

 - Stuff

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