Sun Pillar

June 23, 2004


Provided by: Rick Stankiewicz
Summary authors & editors: Jim Foster; Rick Stankiewicz

The stunning Sun pillar above looks something like a laser sword piercing the sky. This photo was taken at sunrise near Keene, Ontario, Canada in early January of 2003. Pillars are produced when light is refracted through the underside of the plate shaped hexagonal crystal and then reflected off of the upperside before exiting the way it entered, through the underside. Since this particular pillar can be seen clearly against the cloud deck in the background, it seems that the crystals causing it are not only at the base of the cloud but also floating freely in the lower atmosphere. Bright beams, such as this one, may result when the crystals are all nearly perfectly aligned and are of similar size.

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