How many times have you been lost in a strange town without a cell phone, GPS, map or friend who knows their way around? (Maybe you should take a tour next time!) Wouldn’t it have been nice if you could just look up and see a map of the city in the sky with a big “You Are Here” arrow? Well, everything but the arrow appeared over Kauttua, Finland, last week. Was this another one of those ghost cities from China floating around? A ghost map? A Fata Morgana?
On January 12th, residents of Kauttua, in the Finnish providence of Eura, were stunned (and possibly pleased) when they looked up and saw a glowing reverse-image map of the streets they were standing on. Local resident Mia Heikkilä managed to take some photographs of the lights in the sky and posted them on the Internet where many people (as well as Mia) quickly noticed that the lights looked like a reverse of a city map showing both large and small roads and thoroughfares. How did they identify the map and how did it get in the sky?
Those who figured it out obviously know something about “light pillars.” Light pillars are common in northern areas (like Finland) in the winter when the atmosphere is filled with ice crystals. Bright lights pointing up from the ground are reflected by the crystals, making a bright column appear. When the source is the sun, it’s called a sun pillar (like the one seen recently in Michigan forming the shape of a cross).
Most light pillars are seen from the side. However, Mia Heikkilä happened to be standing directly underneath and in the middle of a lot of bright street lights pointing upwards into air filled with ice crystals under a cloud cover … a perfect storm for beaming a pattern of lights that matched the reverse of the street layout.
Bad news if you're planning a trip to Kauttua … the ice crystals and sky map are gone. Start practicing this phrase: “Olen eksyksissä!” It's Finnish for “I am lost.”