A series of bright shafts of pastel-colored lights appeared in northern Ontario on Jan. 6. The astounding lights were captured by resident Timmy Joe Elzinga using his smartphone camera.

Elzinga was already asleep when his son started crying. As he woke up, he noticed these strange lights and started filming them.

"When I first saw these light beams shooting through the sky from my bathroom window, I was sure they were the northern lights," Elzinga told Live Science. "I was able to capture these images both because the lights were so bright and pronounced and because I'm a bit of an amateur photographer." That experience, he said, led him to use "the manual settings on my phone to adjust the time the aperture was open to 8 seconds."

While most people speculate that this is some kind of an alien-made event, science says otherwise. So what is it?

According to Science Alert, the lights that Elzinga had seen is an atmospheric phenomenon called light pillars, which is pretty common in areas with very low temperature. Elzinga said that at the time he captured the photos, the temperature dipped to 18 degrees Celsius.

They are caused by the interaction of light with ice crystals. Their formations starts when flat, hexagonal ice crystals form lower in the atmosphere than they usually would. These ice crystals may then reflect ground lights in columns.

Unlike the northern lights, which is completely unrelated to the light pillars, there are no magnetic fields involved.

"There were beams of light being shot out of the atmosphere down to the ground, all different colours shimmering and changing. It's about the one time I'll be glad to get waked up at 1.30am by my son crying. If not for that I would have missed it. It was pretty amazing. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. It was so cold that night that it froze the moisture in the air, creating crystals so small that are perfect for prisms of light to shoot out from," Elzinga told Daily Mail.