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Light Pillars Appear in The Night Sky Over Japan

While rural Shimonoseki would make an ideal invasion point for hipster aliens who feel that attacking Tokyo has been done so often in the movies, the real reason for these remarkable looking lights isn’t to be found in space, but in the sea.


Isaribi Kochu in the sky over Japan
Credit: @maashii_taiyo | X

Shimonoseki is especially famous for its fish, and some of them are more active at night. So, many fishermen attach lights to their boats, called "isaribi" in Japanese, to attract a larger catch.


Sometimes, the overnight temperatures drop down low enough that ice crystals form in the clouds high above the fishing ships. When the conditions are just right to produce large enough crystals but no precipitation, the light from their boats reflects off the crystals and shines brightly enough to be seen from shore, a phenomenon called "isaribi kochu," literally “fish-attracting light pillars.”


This ethereal and surreal display in the night sky is a rare phenomenon, but does actually occur about once every other year. And, if you're lucky enough to snap one on your phone and share it on X (like the picture above), you'll get over 12 million views.

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