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Impressive light pillars appear in Manitoba skies

Updated: Dec 30, 2019

Light pillars made a spectacular appearance across the Manitoba skies last night. Off course, light pillars are observed above sources of light and therefore are usually observed in cities. Above is a video in Winnipeg City.

According to the website Atmospheric Optic, the optical illusion is created when cold winter air allows millions of flat ice crystals to descend lower to the ground. When light from street lamps hits the crystals, it creates the appearance of a thin, tall rod.

The phenomenon was also observed in Portage La Prairie (as seen above). Artificial light pillars can be much taller than their natural counterparts because rays from the lights are not parallel and plate crystals with small tilts can still reflect them downwards. The crystals producing the pillars are roughly halfway between you and the lights. When ice crystals float in the air around you, pillars (and other halos) can even be seen around streetlights a few metres away.

Copyright: Les Cowley. Unlike the crystals producing sun pillars, those making tall artificial light pillars need not be strongly tilted. The column producing pillars are approximately midway between the eye and the light source. The higher the crystals in the atmsphere, the taller is the pillar. When the crystals are very high - or the light sources are close - the pillars seem to radiate from overhead, the zenith.

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