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Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on Jan 17, 2005 0:38:11 GMT -6
This inquiry from new Chicago Astronomer member Amy:
"Friday night we saw something in the night sky that we want to know more about. We were driving south on Eola, and saw to the right of the road, a vertical slit of amber light that became closer and brighter as we continued south. We'd never seen anything like that. What was it? Can you explain? It didn't touch down to earth and it hung from the clouds it seemed. It was so cold out we figured it had something to do w/the cold and ice in the air..."
Amy, you are so right about the analysis of the phenomenon you saw.
This past week many reports were submitted to weather experts about the pillar of light that they saw.
But first why they occur...
At times, high up in the atmosphere, ice crystals form and act as little mirrors...
Depending on where one is, the angle is critical on if we see a pillar or not...
This past week, as the bitter cold front washed over us, the greatly lower temperature flash froze tiny water droplets in the air and created a mirror in the sky. In Indiana, people were seeing a sky pillar high above the huge Magnisium fire. Here in Illinois, people were reporting pillars after sunset, and from another big fire.
So Amy, what you were seeing was a reflected light source from either the sun below our horizon or that fire.
Thanks for joining the Chicago Astronomer family and for your question.