Sold-out aurora charter flights set for liftoff from Dunedin
The stars have aligned for 130 aurora hunters on the first commercial flight to see the Southern Lights.
A sold-out Aurora Australis charter, led by Otago Museum director Dr Ian Griffin, will depart Dunedin in a Boeing 767 on Thursday at 9pm.
During that eight-hour flight passengers will cross the international dateline several times, and see Jupiter, the Milky Way, and an aurora.
"If we don't see an aurora there might be a lynch mob at the end," Griffin said.
The flight has attracted passengers from New Zealand and around the world, including a Spanish woman, eager to see the famed Southern Lights.
It was also an opportunity to show the city's stargazing spots off "to all these mad keen photographers", Griffin said.
While it was easier to catch an aurora in the Northern Hemisphere, "we are going to a place that is equivalent of going to Iceland".
"To see the Northern Lights you would have to fly to Norway and spend money on accommodation, be at least a week from home, but here in eight hours for a couple of grand in economy you will see a fantastic aurora".
Griffin, the 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) in 2016.
That flight coincides with a full moon, with Thursday's conditions expected to be ideal.
The Air New Zealand charter flight was organised by the Dunedin branch of travel agency Orbit.
All passengers have a window seat on the plane, which is expected to return on Friday, about 4am.
Griffin expected on their return a "tsunami of images" on social media under the hashtag #flighttothelights.