Luminous pillar

Luminous pillars: Pillars are vertical columns of light that can be seen above and below the Sun , the Moon, or any other luminous object when these light sources are at low altitude.

These phenomena of reflection, along with the auroras or the Parhelical Circles, gave rise in ancient times to many legends related to religion.


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  • 1 How they are produced
  • 2 Propagation
  • 3 Other data
  • 4 Sources

How they are produced

The light that gives rise to such wonderful snapshots can come from three different sources: from the Moon, the Sun or an artificial source, such as the lights coming from homes and street lights. When it is the sun’s rays that cause the phenomenon, they are called solar pillars.

Despite its appearance of solid columns of light, the visual effect is created by our relative point of view.

It is also a ubiquitous phenomenon, as it occurs in many places on our planet. It only takes a bit of luck to witness a solar column – that is, a luminous pillar that appears to extend from the Sun and that occurs when sunlight is reflected by flat ice crystals present in the upper atmosphere.


Ice crystals usually evaporate before reaching the ground. However, during periods of extreme cold flat ice crystals can form close to the ground as light snow, sometimes also called ice crystal fog.

These ice crystals can then reflect street lights as luminous pillars, not unlike solar columns.

Other data

In cold climates, when the atmosphere is calm, the ice crystals that are floating in the air tend to take a position parallel to the Earth’s surface , reflecting the light that reaches them from the luminous bodies located to the ground. low height. This produces vertical white light beams or pillars that extend above and below the light source.

The movements or fluctuations due to the light breeze and that scatter the light laterally do not have a significant effect if the light source and the crystals are in the same direction. If the Sun is low enough, the column will adopt an intense red color.

During the night strange vertical beams of light frequently appear on the horizon. It is not caused by the Sun or the Moon, but by the artificial lights of our civilization.

Sometimes when the Sun is above the horizon, a false Sun appears above it, from which sometimes a solar column rises to the sky.

Crystals are less densely packed in cirrus clouds, making them easier to produce the Fire Pillars.

Observations in cold countries and ascents in meteorological balloons have confirmed the laminar structure of the crystals produced by the columns, and the prismatic nature of the crystals that form the 22 ° halo.


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