Friday, February 3, 2017
LIGHT PILLARS Taken by Rick Stankiewicz on January 29, 2017 @ South of Peterborough, Ontario, CA
These were classic light pillars. You need a perfect storm for them to occur, but when the conditions are right they are unmistakable. You need a stable air column (not too windy), hexagonal plate-like ice crystals in the lower atmosphere floating in a “stacked” formation and this all has to be above a source of light pollution. There were all three that night. I had time to capture a few images, but as I worked my way closer to the city to find the source of the light pollution (light shining up) creating these pillars, they started to fade. In just a half hour they were gone, so good luck and good timing are important to witness this phenomenon. There is no telling how long the affect will last. If the wind picks up or the crystals thin or the light source terminates, the pillars are gone.
These “false aurora” can look like spectral lines in the sky and do in fact indicate the temperature of the light source by their colour, as on this night. They may look like auroras, curtains of light or StarWardian “light sabers”, but unlike aurora and light sabers, they will not move or change, other than possibly fading or brightening in intensity. They are akin to “solar pillars”, as to how they are formed and the way they appear to the observer.
Solar Pillars can occur any time of year because the conditions that create this affect are the similar hexagonal plate-like ice crystals like in light pillars, but instead in the upper atmosphere, where it is always cold. The crystals also need to be stacked in a column and the light source being sunlight or moonlight, reflecting off the bottoms or tops and toward the views eye. The affect is a long pillar or column of light. Typically, solar pillars occur close to sunset or sunrise. They are often more noticeable when the Sun is just below the horizon or hidden by clouds, to help block the strong rays that would otherwise wash out the column affect.
(All Light Pillar images taken on January 29th around 9:30 p.m. EST, with tripod mounted Canon 60D ISO800 for 4 sec , with Sigma 17-70mm @17mm f/3.5. ; 48mm f/4.0 and 33mm f/3.5 respectively)