Some of us complain about winter incessantly—the cold temperatures, the tricky driving conditions, and all the time we’re stuck inside. Yeah, summer gets all the glory. And it’s true that winter can be dangerous. But it can also be hauntingly beautiful.
Various kinds of snow and ice carpet the landscape during this time of year. Yet, some kinds of snow are a lot stranger than others. From mysterious balls of ice washing up on a beach in Siberia to icicles that form miles beneath the ocean, these phenomena are far from ordinary.
10. Light Pillars
Pastel-colored and floating eerily off the ground, these columns of light have often been mistaken for UFOs. Those who catch sight of them on a freezing winter night are often awed by their beauty, which seems like the work of aliens or some otherworldly power. Yet, the science behind the existence of light pillars is relatively mundane.
“Like all halos, they are purely the collected light beams from all the millions of [ice] crystals, which just happen to be reflecting light toward your eyes or camera,” explains Les Cowley, a retired physicist and atmospheric optics expert.
During very cold, windless nights, flat ice crystals from high altitudes can form closer to the ground and reflect the streetlights from cities and the ground lights from cars, resulting in the haunting, alien-like appearance of light pillars. They often take on the same color as the lights they reflect, which explains their many-colored hue.
Interestingly enough, similar phenomena can occur when sunlight or moonlight reflects off the ice crystals, resulting in the formation of sun and moon pillars.