Mauna Kea Pillar and Sunset

August 17, 2009


Photographer: Paul Sears
Summary Author: Paul Sears; Kelly Fast; Jim Foster

This striking Sun pillar and sunset was captured from the front porch of the NASA, Infra Red Telescope Facility (IRTF) on the summit of Mauna Kea, on the Big Island of Hawaii. Note that the Sun appears to be reclining on a cloud bank, which is actually below the altitude of the photographer. However, the cirrus clouds containing the ice crystals responsible for the pillar are thousands of feet higher than Mauna Kea’s summit (13,796 ft or 4,205 m). In order for pillars to form, horizontally stacked plates of hexagonal ice crystals are slightly tipped so that sunlight is reflected toward the viewer. This results in a vertical shaft of light above (and sometimes below) the position of the Sun. Only rarely is a Sun pillar as breathtaking as this one, though.Photo taken at sunset on May 1, 2008.

Photo details: Nikon CoolPix 4500 camera; fl 32 mm; 1/230 second exposure; at f/6.5; ISO 100.

Related Link: