Light Pillars, An Optical Phenomenon Beyond Imagination.

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Light Pillars over Canada
Light Pillars over London Ontario, Canada. Photo by Ray Majoran/ CC BY

Sometimes nature creates more spectacular scenes than anything we can dream up in science fiction and Light pillars are definitely one of them.

Usually visible during very cold weather, light pillars are an atmospheric optical phenomenon where columns of light can be seen beaming directly upwards from a light source.

Light Pillars in Canada.
  Light Pillars in North Bay Ontario, Canada. Photo by Timmyjoeelzinga/ CC BY
This majestic phenomenon occurs when lights, both from natural and artificial sources interact with the numerous flat ice crystals in the atmosphere. These flat crystals are hexagonal in shape and float horizontally in the air close to Earth’s surface.

Photo by V1adis1av/ CC BY
Together the surface of million of tiny crystals act as a mirror and reflect light downwards to our eyes or camera. As the ice crystals float in the air at different heights, it creates a light column from the source.

Light Pillars in Stockholm, Sweden.
 Light Pillars during a cold January winter night in Stockholm, Sweden. Photo by Raitisfreimanis/ CC BY
Let's interpret this with a simple example, have you ever used a torch or flashlight in a dusty place? if yes, then you surely have seen the light beam emanating from the torch.

In a clean room we don't see this phenomenon but in not so clean room we do. It occurs only in dusty places because the dust floating in the air reflect the light and create a column.

Light pillars over USA
Light pillars over Laramie, Wyoming, USA in a winter night. Photo by Christoph Geisler/ CC BY
That's the same thing happens in Light pillars, just, in this case, ice plays the role of dust. One more plus point of ice is it reflects the exact same colour of the light source, which makes light pillars more alive.


Just a Curious boy who want surf over his Curiosity.

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