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Sunset Pillar at Sutherland's Lake, Nova Scotia, 30th December'02 imaged by Shaun Lowe (more of his images) A lower sun pillar was visible earlier. ©2002 Shaun Lowe, shown with permission.

Look for sun pillars near to sunset or sunrise.

They are narrow columns of light apparently beaming directly up and sometimes downwards from the sun. They can be 5 -10º tall and occasionally even higher.

Pillars are not actually vertical rays, they are instead the collective glints of millions of ice crystals.

Pillars take on the colours of the sun and clouds, they can appear white and at other times shades of yellow, red or purple.

Sometimes they appear as several vertically strung patches of light depending on the locations of the cloud crystals.

Pillars often lengthen and brighten after sunset. Watch them creeping northwards (southwards in the Southern Hemisphere), following the sun's movement below the horizon, for up to 30 to 60 minutes after it has set at ground level.