Light pillars – the diamond shining columns

Stef Zisovska
Light pillars over Wyoming

No need to panic! It has nothing to do with aliens and space ships who’ve come to kidnap you. Neither is it an evil force that’s going to try and suck you underground. No, it’s a simple natural phenomenon called a light pillar. It’s a colorful column of light that looks like a beam reaching to the sky. They appear during cold winter nights and are, in fact, just an icy illusion. A light pillar is an artificial light from a ground source reflecting off millions of flying ice crystals. When ice-containing clouds get close to the Earth’s surface then these crystals get illuminated.

These clouds are usually miles away, but when they come close to the ground the hexagonal crystals that are floating horizontally start acting like mirrors and reflect artificial light back down to our eyes. Millions of crystals form a group that floats at different heights, giving the viewer an illusion of a column of light. Light pillars can be very colorful, depending on the color of the light source.

Light Pillars Scheme – Author: V1adis1av – CC BY-SA 4.0
Light Pillars Scheme – Author: V1adis1av – CC BY-SA 4.0

The interesting fact about this incredible phenomenon is that there are no magnetic fields involved and it’s partly caused by humans. Terrestrial objects like street lights or car lights can produce a light pillar.

In our modern world driven by technology, we often look for inspiration and beautiful things by staring at computer screens searching the web and jumping from site to site. The thing we are constantly forgetting is that real beauty is often outside of our comfort zone. Sometimes we just need to get out there and look for the amazing things that surround us.

Having a long night walk on a cold winter’s night is not necessarily a unpleasant and freezing experience. If you live in a country that has cold winters with extreme minus temperatures, consider yourself to be a lucky person. It takes a small effort to step out and into the great outdoors to look at the night sky. You may be surprised by the spectacular view that’s waiting for you, one to admire and to enjoy the experience of something that not everybody gets a chance to do.

Diamond Dust Light Pillars, Rochester, NY 1993 – Author: Jason Olshefsky – CC BY-SA 4.0
Diamond Dust Light Pillars, Rochester, NY 1993 – Author: Jason Olshefsky – CC BY-SA 4.0

These majestic and colorful light pillars are one of the most amazing optical illusions that a human eye can witnessed. The greatest creator of beauty, nature is always preparing astonishing performances that takes our breath away. Things we’re not familiar with can be scary sometimes, but not the light pillars. Now you know that if you ever spot a light pillar you can relax, enjoy the view and make the best photos ever.

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We live in a beautiful world, get out there and enjoy it. Outdoor Revival – Reconnecting us all with the Outdoors.


stef-zisovska is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival