Orion & Light Pillars

Anton Yudin saw these pillars giving the illusion of beaming upwards at his location of 30 km from St. Petersburg, Russia on 26th January '11. The temperature was -22C.

He used a Canon EOS 500D 18-55 lens at 18mm/3.5, ISO 100. The exposure of 46s caused the stars to trail slightly.
  ©Anton Yudin, shown with permission.

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The pillars are an illusion. They do not exist.

Their appearance is produced by reflection of the artificial lights by millions of ice crystals roughly half way between the lights and the camera.

The reflecting crystals are usually, but not always, hexagonal plates drifting in the intensely cold air.   Their large hexagonal faces are more or less horizontal.   Each acts as a mirror, reflecting light back downwards.  Those that happen to glint their light towards the viewer collectively give an apparent pillar shape in the sky.