Sun Pillar

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Related to Sun Pillar: Light pillar, Crepuscular rays

sun pillar

[′sən ‚pil·ər]
A luminous streak of light, white or slightly reddened, extending above and below the sun, most frequently observed near sunrise or sunset; it may extend to about 20° above the sun, and generally ends in a point. Also known as light pillar.

Sun Pillar


an optical phenomenon in the atmosphere. Sun pillars are streaks of white or, sometimes, slightly reddened light extending above and below the sun. They are observed primarily in winter when the weather is cold and are best seen at sunrise and sunset. Sun pillars occur when horizontally arranged flat hexagonal ice crystals (plates) are present in the atmosphere. The pillars are a result of the reflection of the sun’s rays from the bases of the crystals, which are slowly falling toward the earth’s surface. Light pillars are also sometimes seen above and below the moon.

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"Isn't it rare?" her sister asks, referring to the sun pillar. "Have you ever seen one?"
Your item in the May issue on computing Sun pillars (bright columns of light in the sky produced by reflections from atmospheric ice crystals) gave an interesting account of the modern understanding of their origin.
Close to sunset or sunrise, when the Sun angle is best for forming a Sun pillar, the sunlight will have an orangish tint.
These angles provide the top and bottom edges of the Sun pillar for a given solar angle and crystal orientation; the angles are relative to the horizon.
Some, namely sundogs and Sun pillars, are more often spotted, especially when they appear low in the sky during morning or evening commutes from school and work.
Other eerie and lovely halo effects - such as streetlight pillars resembling auroral rays and sunstreaks like downward sun pillars in front of the landscape - can occur in falling showers of small, simple snow crystals that sometimes sparkle like diamond dust.
I assumed that this bar hid the rest of an upward Sun pillar that was being formed in higher-altitude cirrus cloud.
Sky & Telescope readers respond to our requests with stunning photographic studies of halos, Sun pillars, and other atmospheric sky phenomena.
My best-ever Sun pillar extended 5[degrees] below the Sun and a mighty 22[degrees] above it, where it was crowned by an intense, multicolored "upper tangential arc."
An Inca king considered himself an offspring of the sun, and chroniclers described "sun pillars" in a pattern radiating from a central sun temple in Cusco, Peru.
Bright Sun pillars, such as this outstanding example captured after the Sun had descended behind Monte Bianco in Italy, are due to ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere with their flat surfaces aligned horizontally.
LAST JANUARY I discussed Sun pillars, those fascinating columns of light that sometimes extend up (or down) from the Sun when it is low in an ice-hazy sky.