Most parents dread hearing their toddler cry in the middle of the night. But, when Canadian dad Timothy Joseph Elzinga was awoken by his child at 1:30 a.m., he serendipitously had the opportunity to take pictures of this ultra-rare phenomenon that appeared in the night sky.
“I saw beams of light, looking like something out of ‘Star Trek’ or ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind,'” Elzinga told Mashable. Using only his smartphone, he captured the moment and posted a video of it on his YouTube channel.
The beams of light were not the Aurora Borealis, since these were thin pillars seemingly ascending from the city below. Also, the Aurora Borealis is a natural phenomenon; light pillars are mostly man-made.
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“The only ingredients [for light pillars] are ice and light pollution,” NASA’s Tony Philips told Spaceweather. The city lights reflect off the mirror-like ice, creating those spectacular beams.
These light pillars are mostly found in Artic regions. Elzinga captured these in North Bay, Ontario, which is a three-and-a-half-hour drive north of Toronto. Similar light pillars were seen in Finland last year.
In both cases, the temperature was below freezing. Elzinga said it was minus 18 degrees Celsius (minus .4 degrees Fahrenheit) when he went outside to capture the moment. When the lights appeared in Finland, it was minus 19 degrees Celsius (minus 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit).
Personally, the light beams remind me of the movie “Thor,” with the spectacular colors of Asgard and the celestial setting.
If you want to see the light pillars yourself, you can start by planning a trip north during winter. Then, don’t make the same mistake Elzinga made: “I ran out in my pajamas, and quickly realized that I needed to bundle up,” he said.