Rare light pillars, northern lights brighten up night skies in northern B.C.
Weather watchers treated to beautiful sights as extreme cold settles in
Weather watchers have been treated to some beautiful sights in the night skies as extreme cold settles in across British Columbia's Interior and north.
On Saturday night, people from Prince George to Fort Nelson were treated to a display of the northern lights dancing across the skies. The phenomenon was also visible to people in Yukon.
And on Sunday evening, some residents of the Millar Addition in Prince George spotted rare "ice pillars" shooting up into the sky.
Ice pillars occur when ice crystals trapped low in the atmosphere reflect light sources low on the horizon, explained University of Northern British Columbia meteorologist Peter Jackson.
"The light could come originally from a city light, or from the rising or setting sun, too," he said.
The conditions necessary to create the pillars only occur rarely, when the temperature and humidity are exactly right to create thin, six-sided crystals that slowly fall toward the earth, reflecting the light off of each other as they do.
On Sunday, these crystals were able to reflect lights from both the city's downtown core and nearby mills.
While people sometimes mistake light pillars for northern lights, Jackson said they are completely unrelated.
"[Northern lights] are caused by interaction between particles from the sun, or "solar wind" and Earth's magnetic field," he said. "This occurs much higher in the atmosphere [than light pillars]."
Even without northern lights or light pillars, residents of Prince George have noticed bright night skies in recent weeks.
Jackson said that's because low clouds with a high water content have been sitting over the city, reflecting light from homes and businesses in a way that makes it appear as if the light is coming from the sky.
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