Why diamond dust snow sparkles like diamonds in the sky

Diamond dust ice crystals can bend light creating sparkle

Diamonds can be found in nature in more ways than one. In the case of diamond dust, the icy jewels fall out of the sky.

In Aberdeen, South Dakota, the National Weather Service captured the images above Tuesday of light bouncing off diamond dust snow, creating light pillars that beam into the sky.

According to the NWS Aberdeen, "diamond dust" refers to the look of the ice crystals in the air. 

"They can look like sparkling diamonds or very tiny snowflakes ... even though they're not snow," the NWS Aberdeen said in a tweet.

FOX Weather's Steve Baron recorded the video below of diamond dust falling in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 2019.

According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, diamond dust snow is created when "precipitation composed of slowly falling, very small, unbranched crystals of ice which often seem to float in the air; it may fall from a high cloud or from a cloudless sky."

This precipitation usually happens in frosty conditions under very low air temperatures.

The Weather Guys at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, explain that these ice crystals are shaped similar to tiny six-sided pencils and are so small it can be hard to see.

If daylight or enough moonlight is present when light hits the ice crystals, it can make the light bend causing it to sparkle, similar to when light hits a diamond jewel.

Diamond dust can create more optical phenomena, according to The Weather Guys, like the light pillars recently seen in South Dakota or halos and sun dogs.

According to The Weather Guys, the sparkling participation is most frequently seen in the Arctic circle because it needs frigid temperatures to form.

The NWS Aberdeen said temperatures were around 10 degrees Fahrenheit or -12 degrees Celsius when diamond dust sparkled over South Dakota.