Sun Pillars
vertical shafts of light

A sun pillar is a vertical shaft of light extending upward or downward from the sun. Typically seen during sunrise or sunset, sun pillars form when sunlight reflects off the surfaces of falling ice crystals associated with thin, high-level clouds (like cirrostratus clouds).

Photograph by: Rauber

The hexagonal plate-like ice crystals fall with a horizontal orientation, gently rocking from side to side as they fall.

When the sun is low on the horizon, an area of brightness appears in the sky above (or below) the sun as sunlight is reflected off the surfaces of these tipped ice crystals.

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Credits and Acknowledgments for WW2010.
Department of Atmospheric Sciences (DAS) at
the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

water droplets