Crepuscular rays over Waterberg plateau

Photo: Alchemist-hp/Wikimedia

Grand columns of sunlight, known as crepuscular rays, stream through puffy clouds at the Waterberg National Park in central Namibia.

You may have heard of this beautiful phenomenon under a variety of different names: God rays, angel stairs, ropes of Maui, Jacob's ladder, fingers of God — just to name a few. While many of the names possess obvious spiritual inspiration, "crepuscular" (which is derived from the Latin word for "twilight") refers to the tendency for the rays to appear during dawn and dusk.

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Crepuscular rays over duck pond

Photo: Mila Zinkova/Wikimedia

Stow Lake, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, Calif.

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Crepuscular rays in a sunset

Photo: Robert Lowe/Flickr

Swansea, Toronto, Canada

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Crepuscular rays and a hiker on a mountain

Photo: J Brew/Flickr

Mount Si, King County, Washington

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Crepuscular sunset rays

Photo: Jason Jenkins/Flickr

Frankford, N.J.

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Crepuscular rays in Golden Gate Park

Photo: Brocken Inaglory/Wikimedia

Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, Calif.

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Crepuscular rays in Huanya Picchu

Photo: Ernesto Gonzalo/500px

Huayna Picchu, Cusco, Peru

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Crepuscular rays in Hakodate Bay, Japan

Photo: James Brown/Wikimedia

Hakodate Bay, Hokkaido, Japan

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Crepuscular rays coming through trees

Photo: Lee Coursey/Flickr

Patrick's Point State Park, Humboldt County, Calif.

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Crepscular rays over mountain

Photo: Ray Terrill/Flickr

Rio Tinto Stadium, Salt Lake City, Utah

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Crepuscular rays over the ocean horizon

Photo: Les Chatfield/Flickr

Saltdean, East Sussex, England

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Crepuscular rays over farmland

Photo: Anna Norris/MNN

The Flatirons, near Boulder, Colo.

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Crepuscular rays over amphitheater and ocean

Photo: Emi Delli Zuani/500px

Ancona, Italy

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Catie Leary is a photo editor at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.
Crepuscular rays: Dramatic columns of sunlight radiate from the sky
Crepuscular rays occur when columns of sunlight stream through clouds, woods, windows or other structures.