This evening in Boston there was quite a spectacular sunset. However, many people noticed this odd vertical "stripe" in the west.

Has anyone seen this before?

It looked as though it was projected on the clouds from somewhere near where I was standing (as though a reflection of the sun). This would make sense (the city of Boston, with it's tall glass towers, was right next to us), but could the reflection really reach so far and be described so clearly on the clouds?

enter image description here


What you saw was a crepuscular ray. They occur when the Sun's rays stream through gaps in clouds. Such rays tend to appear as parallel columns.

If you look closely at the picture you took, there is a subtle angled crepuscular column above the short building near the middle of the picture.

  • $\begingroup$ Maybe 'parallel' is not quite the right word here, since they appear to radiate. Also: Any possibility it was a sun pillar? Seems like maybe those only form in cold weather. $\endgroup$
    – kwinkunks
    Sep 23 '15 at 11:33
  • $\begingroup$ How cold was the air over Boston when the picture was taken? $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Sep 23 '15 at 11:47
  • $\begingroup$ It was definitely not a crepuscular ray, the edges of which could not appear parallel unless observed from an angle near the sun, I think. We were thinking it could be something like a sun pillar--I didn't know that was the term, but the same thing happens on water when there are small ripples. $\endgroup$ Sep 23 '15 at 13:20
  • $\begingroup$ Altohugh I'd given Fred an up-tick, I think I agree. Crepescular rays are quite common (I saw some brilliant ones a few minutes ago here in TX) and as you say they never appear parallel. $\endgroup$
    – winwaed
    Sep 24 '15 at 13:00

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