Light Pillars!

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This week’s Plane & Pilot Photo of the Week is from Stacy Green, who got these gorgeous shots of light pillars over Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.

These photographs are remarkable not just because they are terrific shots, but also because they show so many pillars.

Now, if you’re wondering what the heck these things even are, don’t feel so all alone. The phenomenon is rare. Even people who live up north might see them just a handful of times in a lifetime. That they happen at all is remarkable. Here’s the short version of how it works. When the atmosphere is just right and there are suspended ice crystals that are just the right size, they can create, in effect, an optical tube for the light to emanate upward from the ground. And they do need a light source of some kind, the brighter the better. And when conditions are just right, as they are here, the effect is very laser like, but even more beautiful.

As we understand it, unlike the Northern Lights, light pillars are a localized optical illusion. The ice crystals that most commonly contribute to the effect are flat and oriented in a horizontal pattern. The observer sees the pillar because they are in the right place to see the arrangement of ice crystals arrayed vertically all reflecting the source of light back toward the viewer.

Or you can just ignore the science and appreciate the beauty and wonder of the light show. Thanks for sharing these great shots with us, Stacy!

Miss last week’s Photo of the Week? Click here: This Photo Of The Week Is Everything!

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