Frigid night in Amarillo leads to dramatic display of light pillars

The temperature in Amarillo was around 8 degrees and snow had just stopped Thursday, making conditions perfect for the icy display.

AMARILLO, Texas -- As an arctic air mass settled into Texas after a winter storm Thursday evening, a rare and beautiful sight appeared in the nighttime sky over the Texas Panhandle: Light pillars.

Andrew Hochstein with 806 Storm Chasers braved the cold in Amarillo and was treated to one of the better displays you'll see in Texas.

"I haven’t seen them that vibrant before here ever!" Hochstein said. "It was certainly a welcome surprise!"

The displays are caused when temperatures are well below freezing, and the air has enough moisture for tiny ice crystals to be floating near the ground.  

In Thursday's case, the temperature in Amarillo was around 8 degrees at the time of the display. And snow had just stopped, leaving a relatively moist atmosphere that, with the sub-freezing temperatures, was full of ice crystals.

The ice crystals then reflect the light from the ground, appearing as a tall, luminous pillar stretching skyward from the light source.

The ice crystals need to be about halfway between your eyes and the light source for the effect to take hold. The pillar's height depends on how high the crystals are positioned and your distance from the light source.  

Higher crystals and/or closer light sources will create taller pillars.