Bizarre vertical light phenomena help!

  1. 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
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Drakkith

    Staff: Mentor

    Did you look at all the light sources through a closed window?
     
  4. 1 person likes this.
  5. davenn

    davenn 3,373
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    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
     
  6. davenn

    davenn 3,373
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    nice link willem :)

    D
     
  7. berkeman

    Staff: Mentor

    Yes, very cool. :smile:
     
  8. 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.
     
  9. berkeman

    Staff: Mentor

    Sweet. Way to go PF! :biggrin:
     
  10. davenn

    davenn 3,373
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    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
     
  11. This is really close to how it looked.

    Thanks, Wilhelm
     

    Attached Files:

  12. berkeman

    Staff: Mentor

    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?
     
  13. Drakkith

    Staff: Mentor

    The light isn't forming a vertical pillar. See here: http://www.atoptics.co.uk/halo/lpil.htm
     
  14. davenn

    davenn 3,373
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    Thanks Drakkith

    that explains it nicely, we live and learn :smile:

    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
     
  15. The photo I posted mirrors what it looks like to the naked eye.
     
  16. 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 Files:

  17. davenn

    davenn 3,373
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    its too hot in Australia to see them :frown:

    Dave
     
  18. On the other hand it's not -20 degrees C or lower when you want to look at the sky...
     
  19. 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.
     
  20. Have seen that many, many times while in Alberta, Canada but just during very cold winter nights. Usually more than -20C. Now I know what that was....Thanks.
     
  21. It did happen to me and it was Far East Ohio--- somewhere between the booming metropolises of New Waterford and Alliance. It was in 2013 and I could be off on precisely when I witnessed them occurring (two times last year).
     
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