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Mysterious Sight Over Pittsburgh: Weather Conditions Perfect For Light Pillar Optical Illusion

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COLLIER TOWNSHIP (KDKA) -- You were all fooled! Mother Nature pulled off a trick overnight bigger than anything David Copperfield or Harry Houdini ever did.

Appearing out of nowhere, all of sudden people began seeing a bright pillar of light suspended in the sky. Some even chased the light to try and find its source.

Here's the thing, like the end of the rainbow with the pot of gold, you aren't ever going to find the source.

So why did strange pillars of light show up in the sky?

This optical illusion is similar to a rainbow, where light is refracted by suspended ice crystals in the atmosphere. Also, as KDKA Meteorologist Ron Smiley noted, there was a ring around the moon.

Tuesday morning's weather was perfect for these types of optical illusions.

(Photo Credit: KDKA Photojournalist Brian Smithmyer)

There were high clouds moving in, with high pressure in place. The jet stream is right on top of us with it dividing very cold air from the north and milder air to the south.

Once you have that set-up, the only other thing you need is a light source. Often times, the moon acts as that light "source." The moon, however, doesn't create its own light; instead, it just reflects the sun's light.

So, overnight, we had a set up where the sun's light reflected off of the moon. As this light entered into the Earth's atmosphere, it was twisted by ice crystals towards your eyes.

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