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light pillars near Helvesiek, Germany
On January 28, 1998, Heino BARDENHAGEN from Helvesiek, Germany, went outside to check if the sky was clear enough to do some astrophotography, perhaps even get a glimpse of the Northern Lights. Instead he noticed these peculiar light beams. The beams hung stationary in mid-air, flaring up at intervals varying from 30 to approximately 120 seconds. The spectacle was visible from the north to the southeast and lasted till 9:20 pm. The picture above, taken exactly one hour earlier, is the first of a series of eight. It was taken with an exposure time of 30 seconds and the aperture set at f/2.8, using a 50 mm lens and a Fuji 800 film.

Although azimuth and height could be determined for 18 individual pillars that were photographed by Heino that night, the light sources that caused them could not be identified with a 100% certainty. Best candidates are the industrial complexes south of Hamburg city (some 38 km northeast of Helvesiek) and gas flames from well-heads at greater distances in the southeast. The temperature on the ground was -1° Celsius. The cloud deck consisted mainly of altocumulus and transparent layers of cirrostratus.

[© Heino BARDENHAGEN - photo used with permission (more pictures by Heino BARDENHAGEN can be viewed on]