Urals Sun Pillar
Lyudmila Sachalina captured this luminous and tall sun pillar over the Southern Urals, Russia on 11th November '11.   ©Lyudmila Sachalina, shown with permission

The Urals, the traditional boundary between Europe and Asia are one of the planet's oldest mountain ranges formed some 250-300 million years ago and are rich in minerals. The southern Urals reach 5380 ft. 

Wobbly plate crystals are the usual source of pillars although column and even Lowitz oriented crystals can form them.

The plates tend to be less perfect than those pictured at right. The sun's rays can be directly reflected from the plate's lower face. Another ray path is entry through a side face, internal reflection from the upper face (with possibly channeling between the upper and lower faces) followed by exit through an opposite side face.

There is no upward going pillar of light. That is an illusion. The 'pillar' is millions of reflections of the sun from individual crystals.

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The upgoing pillar of light is an illusion. It is formed by millions of crystals reflecting sunlight towards the eye.