Bavarian Pillar

March 13, 2005


Provided by: Barbara Dr. Ernst
Summary authors & editors: Barbara Dr. Ernst; Jim Foster

The above photo showing a conspicuous magenta pillar hovering over Woerthsee, Germany (Bavaria) was taken on February 8, 2005. Sun pillars are vertical rays of light above or below the Sun. In most cases, only the upper pillar is visible -- best observed shortly after sunset. They result from reflection of sunlight off the base ends of rotating plate-shaped hexagonal snow crystals, which need to be slightly tipped toward the viewer. The width of a pillar is a function of the extent to which the crystals wobble about their vertical axis and is unrelated to crystal size. Since pillars are reflection phenomena, they mimic the color of the light source causing them -- in this case, the Sun. The person at the bottom of the photo appears to be signaling that he or she is ready to be "beamed up."

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