Register to reply

Bizarre vertical light phenomena help!

Share this thread:
Billrabara
#1
Mar4-14, 03:03 PM
P: 5
Hello,

I work for a class 1 railroad in northwestern Ohio as a conductor. Approximately six months ago traveling down the tracks at a speed of 45-60 mph, en route to Pittsburgh, PA, my engineer and I encountered something bizarre and, for us, baffling. A light beam from every single light source we saw, appeared to shoot vertically, straight up into the sky. This appeared to be happening on every light source like street lights, oncoming locomotive headlights passing on the adjacent track, lights on various tower structures, etc, etc. It looked like the light beams emanated from top of of the lights where the beams appeared laser-like in that, from out vantage point, the beams were rather concentrated and not cone shaped and went straight upward, perpendicular to the ground.
This happened at night and I do not remember if it was raining slightly or the temperature. This happened, as we travelled, for at least ten miles of our journey. Obviously, there must be certain atmospheric conditions that cause this phenomenon.

What was going on? I seen this same thing happen a couple months ago but have no pictures because it is illegal for me to shoot pictures from moving trains (FRA regulations).

Thanks
Phys.Org News Partner Astronomy news on Phys.org
Young binary star system may form planets with weird and wild orbits
Evidence of a local hot bubble carved by a supernova
Astronomers measure weight of galaxies, expansion of universe
Drakkith
#2
Mar4-14, 05:25 PM
Mentor
Drakkith's Avatar
P: 11,600
Did you look at all the light sources through a closed window?
willem2
#3
Mar4-14, 06:25 PM
P: 1,395
Something like this?

http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap131218.html

davenn
#4
Mar4-14, 06:32 PM
Sci Advisor
PF Gold
davenn's Avatar
P: 2,508
Bizarre vertical light phenomena help!

if there was low cloud / fog there may be the possibility of the light forming a visible beam reflecting off the moisture droplets

Considering that most streetlights are shaded to the top it almost rules that out

I like drakkith's comment, he may possibly thinking that on the window the light is streaking
and that would be a strong possibility if the windows were a bit dirty/greasy

Dave
davenn
#5
Mar4-14, 06:34 PM
Sci Advisor
PF Gold
davenn's Avatar
P: 2,508
nice link willem :)

D
berkeman
#6
Mar4-14, 07:03 PM
Mentor
berkeman's Avatar
P: 40,730
Quote Quote by davenn View Post
nice link willem :)

D
Yes, very cool.
Billrabara
#7
Mar4-14, 09:21 PM
P: 5
Yes that's it wilhelm!! I have seen it twice this past year and I will take a picture next time. The only difference is that I saw the source of the light pillars -- street lights, headlights from cars and trains. I had to have seen over 100 over the course of 20 minutes.
berkeman
#8
Mar4-14, 09:54 PM
Mentor
berkeman's Avatar
P: 40,730
Sweet. Way to go PF!
davenn
#9
Mar4-14, 10:02 PM
Sci Advisor
PF Gold
davenn's Avatar
P: 2,508
what I cant figure out, is if the streetlight is shaded on its top by its housing
how does a vertical pillar of light get produced ?


Dave
Billrabara
#10
Mar4-14, 10:16 PM
P: 5
This is really close to how it looked.

Thanks, Wilhelm
Attached Thumbnails
image.jpg  
berkeman
#11
Mar4-14, 10:33 PM
Mentor
berkeman's Avatar
P: 40,730
Quote Quote by Billrabara View Post
This is really close to how it looked.

Thanks, Wilhelm
Interesting. The pillars go down as well as up, I think. The stars would come from the aperture shape, but did you take this with an apertureless cell phone?
Drakkith
#12
Mar4-14, 11:18 PM
Mentor
Drakkith's Avatar
P: 11,600
Quote Quote by davenn View Post
what I cant figure out, is if the streetlight is shaded on its top by its housing
how does a vertical pillar of light get produced ?


Dave
The light isn't forming a vertical pillar. See here: http://www.atoptics.co.uk/halo/lpil.htm
davenn
#13
Mar5-14, 04:04 PM
Sci Advisor
PF Gold
davenn's Avatar
P: 2,508
Thanks Drakkith

that explains it nicely, we live and learn

The stars would come from the aperture shape, but did you take this with an apertureless cell phone?
that would be my thinking, its easy to get nice starburst patterns around lights with a small aperture f15 - F22 or so
I don't know what the aperture of the avg mobile phone would be ??


Dave
Billrabara
#14
Mar5-14, 04:13 PM
P: 5
Quote Quote by berkeman View Post
Interesting. The pillars go down as well as up, I think. The stars would come from the aperture shape, but did you take this with an apertureless cell phone?
The photo I posted mirrors what it looks like to the naked eye.
glappkaeft
#15
Mar6-14, 04:02 PM
P: 82
It sounds like your run of the mill light pillars caused by ice crystals in the atmosphere. It is not that uncommon in here in Sweden, I've seen it several times and caught it once with a camera.
Attached Thumbnails
ljuspelare over orsundsbro.jpg  
davenn
#16
Mar6-14, 04:19 PM
Sci Advisor
PF Gold
davenn's Avatar
P: 2,508
Quote Quote by glappkaeft View Post
........... It is not that uncommon in here in Sweden, I've seen it several times and caught it once with a camera.
its too hot in Australia to see them

Dave
glappkaeft
#17
Mar6-14, 04:55 PM
P: 82
Quote Quote by davenn View Post
its too hot in Australia to see them
On the other hand it's not -20 degrees C or lower when you want to look at the sky...
willem2
#18
Mar6-14, 05:43 PM
P: 1,395
If it happened 6 months ago (september) in Ohio, I don't think it would be cold enough for ice cristals. record low temperature in Toledo, ohio in september is only -3 celsius.


Register to reply

Related Discussions
Vertical speed of light? Special & General Relativity 12
Phenomena of light Introductory Physics Homework 1
Phenomena of reflection of light General Physics 29
Speed of light vertical and horizontal in gravity Special & General Relativity 1
Are there other phenomena (besides light) whose speed is invariant? Special & General Relativity 1