Tuesday, January 21, 2014

FALSE AURORAS: Light pillars in the Arctic Circle

via Spaceweather.com

Lately, in communities around the Arctic Circle, people have been seeing colorful lights in the sky. Although they look like auroras, they are not. Alexander Kuznetsov photographed this apparition over Rovaniemi in the Finnish Lapland on Jan. 17th:



They're light pillars, caused by ice crystals in the air which intercept urban lights and spread them into colorful columns. No solar activity is required for the phenomenon. The only ingredients are ice and light pollution.

"The temperature was -27°C – perfect weather for these to occur," says Kuznetsov. "I have seen light pillars before, but never so many." Although the pillars were clearly visible to the unaided eye, he decided to use a 20 second exposure to create a dramatic trail of smoke from the foreground chimneys. The long exposure accentuated slight differences in the hue of city lights, creating a truly polychromatic image.

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