Mysterious Light Pillars Captured in Stunning Photos

"It looked like someone from Star Trek was trying to beam people up."

Light Pillars Over Canada
Timothy Joseph Elzinga

Usually when your kid wakes you up at 1:30 a.m. all you want tell them to do is please go back to sleep. But Timothy Joseph Elzinga, of North Bay, Ontario, was happy that his two-year-old son Gibson woke him up crying the other night because otherwise he wouldn't have been awake to notice these amazing lights — called light pillars — in the sky.

"It looked like someone from Star Trek was trying to beam people up," Elzinga told CBC News. "It was very bright in person, like nothing I've ever seen. It almost seemed supernatural."

Elzinga, who runs the Youtube channel Timmy Joe, posted this video explaining how this fascinating phenomenon works along with footage from the night he shot this photo.

According to NASA, light pillars have nothing to do with the northern lights, but rather are "a local phenomenon that can appear as a distant one."

In most places on Earth, a lucky viewer can see a Sun-pillar, a column of light appearing to extend up from the Sun caused by flat fluttering ice-crystals reflecting sunlight from the upper atmosphere. Usually these ice crystals evaporate before reaching the ground. During freezing temperatures, however, flat fluttering ice crystals may form near the ground in a form of light snow, sometimes known as a crystal fog. These ice crystals may then reflect ground lights in columns not unlike a Sun-pillar.

Light pillars don't just happen in Canada. As you can see in these Instagrams, they can also occur in other frigid destinations like Sweden, Alaska, New Hampshire and Michigan.

View this post on Instagram

Light Pillars filling the sky above #franconiaNH last night!! It's an incredibly rare optical phenomenon caused by flat ice crystals suspended in the air under #supercold conditions. -5 degrees around midnight when I took this but I wish it had lasted longer. No camera tricks, no PS! Who's seen this before?? #onlyinnh #newhampshire #northcountry #nikonnofilter #lightpillars #coldweather #cannonmountain #babyitscoldoutside #outdoorlife #outdoormagazine ? ;) #8510111

A post d by ↟ Shaun Terhune ↟ (@shaunterhune) on

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Light Pillars, an atmospheric optical phenomena on super cold nights. Ice crystals reflect ground based light, and appear as pillars, in this case, bright flood lights from a drilling rig. Taken Friday night along the Cowboy Trail near Alder Flats, Alberta #yeggers #imagesofcanada #explorealberta #lightpillar #drillingrig #explorecanada #nikonnofilter #nightphotography #night_pixels

A post d by Jeff Wallace • Alberta (@wherezjeff) on

View this post on Instagram

Light Pillars Over Charlotte, MI Airport Night of January 5th 2017 As temperatures dropped to single digits with calm conditions, moisture in the air became crystallized commonly referred to as 'diamond dust.' The shape of the ice crystals is like a little plate that reflects light. As the diamond dust floats over light sources the ice crystals reflect light downwards towards our eyes (or camera sensor) and form what's called a light pillar. I took quite a few photos around my hometown of Charlotte, MI this night. I'll post a few more in the near future. This panorama might be my favorite from the night. The sweeping searchlight made a really cool fading on and off light pillar that I have video and time-lapse of of. Going to put that together for you as well. #charlotterising #lightpillars #airport #puremichigan #cold

A post d by Vincent Brady (@vbradyphoto) on

(h/t Bored Panda)

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