November 20, 2008 NASA:
How can an aurora appear so near the ground? [It's] not aurora but nearby light pillars, a local phenomenon that can appear as a distant one. In most places on Earth, a lucky viewer can see a Sun-pillar, a column of light appearing to extend up from the Sun caused by flat fluttering ice-crystals reflecting sunlight from the upper atmosphere. Usually these ice ice crystals evaporate before reaching the ground. During freezing temperatures, however, flat fluttering ice crystals may form near the ground in a form of light snow, sometimes known as a crystal fog. These ice crystals may then reflect ground lights in columns not unlike a Sun-pillar
NOAA: A sun pillar is created when millions of falling ice crystals reflect the sun's rays, creating a column of light. They often occur at sunset or sunrise.
Atmopsheric Optics: They are narrow columns of light apparently beaming directly up and sometimes downwards from the sun. They can be 5 -10º tall and occasionally even higher. Pillars are not actually vertical rays, they are instead the collective glints of millions of ice crystals.
Maps of the World: Light pillars are a kind of optical phenomenon which is formed by the reflection of sunlight or moonlight by ice crystals that are present in the earth's atmosphere. Owing to such optical phenomenon the sky sometimes seems like a natural kaleidoscope. Though light pillars seem like weather illusion , they are natural phenomena.
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