Saturday, December 14, 2013

Lower Sun Pillar below the Saskatchewan Sun

Lower Sun Pillar, with iridescent clouds (top left)   © SB
A lower sun pillar shone in Saskatchewan skies last week, a broad beam of light from the sun's low winter arc to the ground.

I tried for a shot — direct pix of the sun are tricky — and finally got a picture that shows a little of the beauty of this atmospheric optics display.

Sun pillars can beam upwards or downwards from the sun, though they are not really beams at all, but instead, reflections of sunlight glinting on millions of ice crystals in the air. (There are great explanations of lower and other kinds of sun pillars on Les Cowley's Atmospheric Optics page.)

And yes, I looked for more atmospheric optics displays — sundogs, which we've seen a few times so far this winter, or perhaps full solar halos... Maybe because I was blinded by the light, this pillar was all my naked eye could see. (Though in the image above, there is also a shimmering pink iridescent cloud, top left.)

I saw this show as I drove south, home to Regina from Davidson; earlier, a friend driving south from Saskatoon to Davidson had told me about the display he'd watched en route, the sun touching the earth with glory.

So beautiful! In some places where snowy fields stretched to the horizon — typically along the busiest stretches of the swirling highway — the arc where the pillar touched the ground became a bright, glowing rainbow.

Today, cloud and light snow. Perhaps the sun will come out later this week and shine through fresh windblown snow with more of its magical northern light.

What is this? A sun pillar 
Location: Near Regina, Saskatchewan
Photo dates: December 8, 2013. 


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