Pillar Above Cranbury, New Jersey

July 08, 2005

2005-05-11a_0163 copy

Provided and copyright by: Anita Gould
Summary authors & editors: Anita Gould; Jim Foster

Sun pillars appear above or below the Sun near sunrise or sunset. They're caused by the reflection of sunlight from nearly horizontally-oriented, plate-shaped hexagonal snow crystals (base face reflection), typically found in cirrus clouds. This spectacular pillar was observed over Cranbury, New Jersey on the morning of May 10, 2005. It spread across at least 20 degrees of sky, was full-blown by 15 minutes before sunrise and was visible a good hour afterwards! The tightness of a pillar is a function of the extent to which the crystals wobble about their vertical axis and is unrelated to crystal size. Favorable conditions for pillar formation seem to have prevailed for a considerable distance along the Eastern seaboard on this morning -- pillars were noted and photographed from Baltimore, Maryland and outside Washington D.C. as well.

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