A Great Photo Showing Rare ‘Pillars of Light’ Shooting Through the Sky Explained
An energy company employee in the Canadian province of Manitoba has captured a spectacular image of a rarely seen phenomenon characterized by pillars of light “shooting skyward”.
The photo was taken by Mark Matwick, who works at the Keewatinohk Converter Station, located near the northern town of Gillam, operated by Manitoba Hydro.
“Are aliens descending on the Keewatinohk Converter Station? Not quite. These mysterious beams of light are called pillars of light,” Manitoba Hydro said in a LinkedIn post.
“They are rare, but less rare in northern Manitoba, where the extreme cold conditions needed to see them are common.”
The power company said the phenomenon is the result of ice crystals in the atmosphere acting as a mirror and reflecting the light source below, in conditions where the night is cold and windless.
Justin Anderson, a full-time northern lights photographer and co-creator of the Manitoba Aurora and Astronomy Facebook page, told CTV News Winnipeg that Matwick’s photo is a prime example of the light pillar phenomenon.
“This is probably one of the best photos of light pillars I’ve ever seen,” Anderson said.
The photographer said the light reflected from the floating ice crystals could shoot high into the sky.
“It will reflect that light up into the atmosphere and it will go hundreds of feet,” he said. “It looks like hundreds of feet to us, but in reality it’s miles in the air and it looks amazing.”
The picture is visible here.
Because the conditions must be met for the phenomenon to appear, luminous pillars are relatively rare. Anderson said only a handful of half-decent examples are recorded each year in the region.
“It’s one of the coolest things you can see under the night sky besides the Northern Lights,” Anderson said.
The photographer said one of the best things about pillars of light is that anyone can see and photograph them.
“While you can still see the Northern Lights with the naked eye, a camera does a lot of magic behind the scenes that really amplifies the image. As for the light pillars, you don’t need a camera. sophisticated camera to capture them,” he said.
The Northern Lights are a form of the aurora, a phenomenon that occurs primarily in the high latitudes of both hemispheres. In the northern hemisphere they are called the aurora borealis, while in the southern hemisphere they are called the aurora australis or aurora borealis.
Auroras are caused by the interaction of energetic particles, initially emitted by the sun, with atoms in the Earth’s upper atmosphere.
Newsweek contacted Manitoba Hydro.