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Night's Candles, Argentina

Sergio Montúfar Codoñer (facebook,flickr, 500px) witnessed this highly unusual scene over the Salado River at General Belgrano, Provincia de Buenos Aires.

His astrophotography on the winter night of July 20, ’15 was interrupted by gathering clouds. The first light pillar/sky reflection appeared over the town of Castel 50km distant then a second formed over Guerrero. As he was packing away this amazing scene developed.  Scroll right.

All images ©Sergio Mont˙far Codo˝er, shown with permission
Another scene showing faint town light reflections.

Ice crystals roughly half way between the ground lights and the camera generate the reflections.

Ice crystals acting as millions of small mirrors produced reflections of distant town lights in the sky.

Hexagonal plate crystals drift in clouds with their large faces nearly horizontal. They mirror the sun to form sun pillars but here they mirror upward shining ground lights to produce fragments of light pillars.

Unlike sun pillars, these light reflections do not need wobbly crystals.

If we (reasonably) assume that the crystals were midway between the town lights and Sergio than we can calculate the crystal height from measurements of the image and knowledge of the camera and lens. The height comes out as 4.6km (15,000ft) quite reasonable for ice bearing clouds in winter - The ground temperature was 5-10 Celsius.

The top picture is a panorama from seven images taken with a Sony s7. 14mm Rokinon f/2.8 at ISO 8000.