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Beautiful 'light pillars' soar above western skies

Digital writers

Monday, November 6, 2017, 10:46 AM - Colourful light beams shot up into the sky over Alberta this past weekend and weather photographer Darlene Tanner managed to capture the beautiful scene.

While the photo (below) may look like a scene out of Star Trek, the beams are actually called light pillars.

"Light pillars are an atmospheric phenomena created when tiny ice crystals reflect either natural (sun or moon) or artificial light (such as streetlights)," says The Weather Network meteorologist Erin Wenckstern. "This type of ice crystal is flat and hexagonal in shape, and when they are suspended in the air, together they act like a gigantic mirror, reflecting the light source upwards or downwards."

They are known to appear during extremely cold nights, when ice crystals form closer to the ground, rather than high up in the atmosphere, adds Wenckstern. Overnight temperatures were in the minus teens across Alberta this weekend.

Though somewhat rare, light pillars do make an occasional appearance in northern skies, and sometimes further south than where Tanner spotted them.

In January, a resident of North Bay, Ont., made national headlines when she posted photos of light pillars appearing near her home.

Take a look below at some of the most spectacular images we have received:

Darlene Tanner, Blackfalds, Alta.

James Dong, Winnipeg, Man.

Jay Callaghan, Peterborough, Ont.

Marty L, Cambridge, Ont.

Shannon Prentice, Red Deer, Alta.

Stacey Garwood, Kingston, Ont.

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