Badlands, South Dakota Sunrise - Imaged by Mike Paulson. The low sun is accompanied by an upper and lower pillar. ©Mike Paulson, shown with permission.


About - Submit Optics Picture of the Day Galleries Previous Next Today Subscribe to Features on RSS Feed
Plate-like ice crystals drifting in the clouds create the pillars. Although conventionally pictured, like here, as regular hexagons they are likely to be large as cloud crystals go and somewhat irregular, some even approaching smaller snowflakes in habit.

The plates wobble from the horizontal and reflections from their large faces produce glints of light. The glints from millions of crystals are visible as a pillar like glow.

Pillars take on the hues of the sunlight, or artificial light, creating them. Ones seen shortly after sunset are deeply reddened.