Upper and Lower Sun Pillars

May 03, 2004


Provided and copyright by: Lauri Kangas
Summary authors & editors: Jim Foster; Lauri Kangas

The photo above showing a rather rare pair of glorious Sun pillars was taken near Caledon, Ontario, Canada on February 7, at 4.53 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST). These upper and lower pillars appeared in the western sky when the Sun was still relatively high, approximately 10 degrees above the horizon (one fist held at arm's length). It was bitterly cold and windy, and ice crystals were blowing about, glinting in the air. Pillars are caused by refraction and reflection of light off of the undersides of oriented ice crystals (plate shaped hexagonal crystals) -- these crystals can either be in clouds or floating freely at lower levels. The overall softness of this scene is likely due to iridescence in the clouds, imbuing them with green and pink pastel hues.

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