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A strange vertical light that formed in the sky on Tuesday night took many Kota Kinabalu and Penampang folk by surprise.

Many rushed out to watch the beam of amber light that remained in the night sky for three hours, beginning at 7pm.

They took pictures of the incident and shared them via WhatsApp as well as uploaded them on social media websites.

Some of those who saw the pictures discussed the incident as being a possible sign of doomsday.

As mysterious as it sounds, the Sabah Meteorological Department has pointed that the phenomenon is known as a "light pillar".

This vertical shaft of light normally appears due to the reflection of sunlight or moonlight by ice crystals that form in the Earth's atmosphere.

The department's director, Abdul Malik Tussin, said the sighting on Tuesday was not the first.

"This is a natural phenomenon. It is not new and it has occurred a few times.

"It is also known as a 'sun pillar' or 'solar pillar'.

"Not many people are aware of this phenomenon because it has not been publicised before.

"There is really nothing to worry about," he said.

Light pillars are also sometimes referred to as the "crystal beam" phenomenon.

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This vertical shaft of light normally appears due to the reflection of sunlight or moonlight by ice crystals that form in the Earth's atmosphere.