"Light pillars' observed over south Wales, UK

A very rare atmospheric optical phenomenon called 'light pillars' was observed in the night sky above south Wales about 21:50 UTC on Friday, March 11, 2016, the same day a CME impact sparked surprising G2 - Moderate geomagnetic storm with auroras seen as far as the UK.

"The phenomenon is caused by atmospheric ice crystals reflecting light and is more common in polar regions," BBC quoted Allan Trow, the director of astronomy education company Dark Sky Wales, who captured them above Rhigos mountain.

Trow said the phenomenon lasted at least 90 seconds, long enough for the astronomers to take a number of photographs

"Between the three astronomers there, we have 80 years experience, but it was the first time we had seen anything like it. We were astonished. I've seen pictures of them from Scandinavia and Alaska but nothing from the UK," Trow said.

Les Cowley, an atmospheric optics expert, explains light pillars as halos which are sometimes visible during very cold weather. "Like all halos, they are purely the collected light beams from all the millions of crystals which just happen to be reflecting light towards your eyes or camera."

Trow added his fellow astronomers believed the light reflected in the light pillars could have come from the Port Talbot steelworks which are just over the other side of the mountain.

Featured image: Light pillars observed over south Wales, UK on March 12, 2016. Credit: Andy Burns / Dark Sky Wales


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