Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Sun Pillar in Wildomar's Western Sky

Monday was another parhelia day. I saw a sundog in the morning and pulled over to take a quick picture. Upon examining the photos, I learned that my camera's landscape setting had overexposed and lost the color. A lesson I applied later in the day.

When driving home that evening, I saw a sun pillar. Based on the morning's experiment, I knew I had to not just pullover, but pull off the road where I could take my time with manual exposure settings to get the sun pillar:

The sun pillar is the column of light in the center, caused by the downward refraction of sunlight by ice crystals in the atmosphere. Light from the sun that would normally pass over my head is being bent downward so I see it as a column. I suspect the geometry refraction through ice crystals limits how high the pillar can be.

The phenomenon lasted for about 5 minutes, making timing critical.


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