Light pillars over Sun Valley, Idaho

Ice crystals in the air create these beautiful, upward shafts of light.

Photo by Nils Ribi.

Nils Ribi posted this photo at EarthSky Facebook and wrote:

I’ve been noticing these light pillars the last couple nights around Sun Valley, Idaho. These are from some brightly lit trees around 11:30 pm on January 1, 2017.

Light pillars form when a bright light source reflects off the surfaces of millions of falling ice crystals in the sky. The ice crystals are associated with thin, high-level clouds, for example, cirrostratus clouds. The crystals have roughly horizontal faces. They fall through Earth’s atmosphere, rocking slightly from side to side, and the light reflecting from them are what creates light pillars, and also sun pillars.

Thank you, Nils!

Read more. What is a sun pillar or light pillar?

Deborah Byrd