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Astronomers/meteorologists identification help?

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 Tom Last 29 Jul 2020

Hi all.

I wonder if anybody can help me identify a weird phenomenon I saw in the sky last night?

I saw a band of light which stretched across as much of the sky as I could see (possibly the whole sky, though view obscured) in a perfectly straight line. At first I thought it was a contrail, but there were and had been no aeroplanes over the SW (I’m in mid Cornwall) for some time according to Flight Radar. Also, it didn’t behave like a contrail which tend to get more diffuse and eventually break up. 
This quite faint band of light kept its form and over a short period of time about 20mins I reckon dropped from about 30° to the horizon and then disappeared. 
The sky was cold and clear and little to no wind. The band of light stretched roughly from *NNW to SSE perpendicular to the azimuth of the moon low at that point (about 23.30 - 24.00) in the WSW.
*Directions approximate!

The NNWesterly end of the line of light was (according to SkyView) pretty much in line with where the Sun was, though it had dropped below the horizon an hour and a half or more previously. 

I have a photo of it which I will try to upload somewhere. The band was straight and narrow like a contrail. Not diffuse, not broken, but with a slightly fainter line running immediately (ie touching) parallel to it.

Any ideas? Sun pillar? 



 Tom Last 29 Jul 2020
 IainL 29 Jul 2020
In reply to Tom Last:

Flight Radar does not show military flights.

In reply to IainL:

This does:


I spotted a U2 heading East recently, before it suddenly vanished just N of Poland...

 malk 30 Jul 2020
In reply to Tom Last:

i can't see photo without logging in but could be https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parhelic_circle if pointing towards sun? but that wouldn't be moving across the sky as quickly as you describe so prob contrail..

 Rob 31 Jul 2020

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