Subsuns & Pillars

Claudia Hinz (Atmospheric Optics Site) captured these subsuns and lower sun pillars at the 1848m high Mount Wendelstein Observatory in the Bavarian Alps, Germany.

Images ©Claudia Hinz, shown with permission.

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Subsuns and lower pillars are both reflections from myriad horizontal plate crystals. Each crystal glints sun rays from its upper or lower hexagonal face.

Well aligned - by aerodynamic drag forces - crystals have these faces horizontal to better than one degree. That produces a subsun, an almost circular solar reflection. Large less well oriented crystals can wobble several degrees and a sun pillar results.

Crystal tilt is the only real distinction between the two.