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 Received : 11/20/08  Daniel LEVIN   

There were lengthy and extensive sightings of vertical light pillars in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA last night from around 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. local time....  read more 

 Received : 11/20/08  Anthony VELGUS   

I just wanted to report seeing some light pillars last night near White Haven, Pennsylvania at approximately 00:30 Zulu Time....  read more 

 Received : 11/21/08  Anthony VELGUS   

Thanks for the explanation, but now I have another question : does the light source necessarily have to be shining directly up to cause this....  read more 

 Received : 11/21/08  Daniel LEVIN   

Thanks for the reply and the additional confirmation that is was a light pillar event. The only reason I can think of that even meteorologists would not know about this phenomenon is that it is so rare, particularly to the extent that it was visible on Nov. 19 in a several thousand square km area.

You know much more about weather and atmospheric conditions than I do, but I can assure you that without an easily-remembered name for such an event the public will forever be flummoxed whenever it occurs. But, if it was called something like "Angel Wings", people will remember it and when it occurs there will be much less speculation. And I submit that such a name is close enough to there appearance - since many of the vertical pillars were close together and ephemeral - to stand in for the actual image. (After all, who really knows what angel wings look like?)

This was not my idea or name, but I know a good slogan when I hear it. TV weathermen are also more likely to reference a positive image name that their audience can relate to. This name would leverage your diligent scientific efforts to explain this wonderful phenomenon, as the general public could search on that term and dispel the mystery, but maintain the wonder.

Garnet Valley, Pennsylvania

Our reply :

While it is true that light pillars in high-altitude clouds are not a common thing, they are not really that rare either. We ourselves have managed to photograph them on five occasions (see for example photos with indications OP-PH-06, 07, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 27 in our picture gallery of artificial light pillars). It does help of course if you know where to look. The glow of a distant gas flame for instance can tell you that, if a reflection occurs, it should have the same azimuth as the flame, while the location of the flame will tell you whether the mirrored image will appear high in the sky (when the flame is only a few miles distant) or low on the horizon (when the flame is several tens of miles away).

Regarding the need for an easily-remembered name, we think Mr. LEVIN's point is well taken. Still, we remain reluctant to use the name "Angle Wings", not only because, in our opinion, "Wings" point to a specific shape which the lights do not have, but also because, normally, only very bright lights generate a reflection, meaning that in most cases only one isolated pillar is seen. For that reason, ascribing a name to the phenomenon that can only be used in a plural form, seems a bit odd.

The pillars seen over Philadelphia are also the subject of one of our case examples.


 Received : 11/24/08  Daniel LEVIN   

I'm sure that the phenomenon happens more than it is observed here.....  read more 

 Received : 11/20/09  Anthony FAULKNER   

On the night of November 18th, 2009 I saw about 20 light pillars in the sky above Mihonoseki, Shimane, Japan. It was very strange.....  read more 

 Received : 01/28/10  Fred ZUMPANO   

I live on the outskirts of Akron, Ohio. Tonight, Jan 28, 11 p.m., took my dog out. As I look on the horizon of this busy city, and look towards the city, vertical shafts of light are rising in the southerly sky......  read more 

 Received : 09/04/11  Andrew T. YOUNG   

This visitor response relates to Chapter 4 of our article on light pillars, and in particular to the part where we mention the observation of a "circular reflection" near the zenith produced by a combustion flame from an oil rig in the North Sea on October 20, 1993.  read more 

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