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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

All About Rainbows!

All About Rainbows!

No weather phenomenon captures the human imagination quite like a rainbow. That translucent band of bright colors arcing perfectly over the landscape looks otherworldly.

And, in fact, rainbows have been tinged in myth and folklore for much of human history. Some have viewed them as pathways to magical or celestial realms, some have seen them as a sign from God, or the gods, some view them as good luck, or a path to riches.

Magical as they may seem, rainbows are perfectly natural. They are an optical illusion on water and light that form because white light is comprised of all colors of the spectrum. When light passes through water, it is refracted into its component colors. Rainbows can appear any time there are water droplets in the air and the sunlight shines from behind them at a low angle. That means they are more likely to appear in the early morning or later afternoon.

Here are some fun and interesting facts about rainbows!

– Rainbows can only appear directly opposite from the sun. Where, and even if, a rainbow appears is influenced by where the viewer is in relationship to the sun. Rainbows have no set physical location. A person who appears to be standing at the end of a rainbow from another person’s perspective won’t see the rainbow in the same place, but will instead see another rainbow in a different location, opposite the sun. The top of the arc is always centered on the viewer’s head.

– A rainbow contains seven colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. You may remember from school that an easy way to remember the order of the colors is by thinking of the name Roy G. Biv. These colors appear in order according to their wavelengths.

– Sometimes a so-called double rainbow forms, with a fainter rainbow appearing on top of the main one. This occurs when the light is reflected twice in each raindrop, instead of just once. The double reflection causes the second rainbow to be inverted, so in a double rainbow, the colors in the secondary bow appear in the reverse order compared to the primary, or darker rainbow.

– The sky beneath a rainbow appears brighter than the sky above it. Light rays are refracted into the area inside the arch, causing that area to appears brighter. The area outside the rainbow appears darker by contrast. In a double rainbow, this dark area above the primary rainbow even more pronounced, resulting in a very dark band between the two rainbows. This dark area is called Alexander’s band, after Alexander of Aphrodisias, a Greek philosopher described this phenomena 1800 years ago.

– Rainbows appear to be a semi-circle because the horizon interferes. In order to see the full circle of the rainbow, you would have to look down on it with the sun behind you. This scenario is only possible from an airplane. In fact, it is possible to see a rainbow in a complete circle while flying. When this happens, the plane’s shadow appears in the center of the circle.

16 comments

1 rick { 10.23.14 at 10:27 pm }

to lady that submit this I know you and the only thing I would like to find at the end is you

2 cathy harvey { 10.19.14 at 3:58 pm }

God gave us the rainbow to remind us He would never again flood the whole earth as He did when Noah was in the ark with his families due to their being the only ones to do God’s will.Read this in Genesis 9:13

3 Amber Gottman { 10.16.14 at 11:04 pm }

I once drove through the end of a rainbow it was a unexplainable experience. it was as if I was for a moment inside it. even while inside a car the bright colors seemed to surround us. ironically we happened to be on our way to the casino where our pot of gold so to speek was awaiting us.

4 Ellery { 05.07.14 at 11:10 am }

I drove through a rainbow once, while on the lake. It was just like the first commenter said. It was like time stood still momentarily. It was surreal! I’m sure the phenomenon was all in my head as the boat didn’t stop or suddenly fill up with gold. I’ve chased rainbows on the water since then but never duplicated the event again. The first time it happened, I never had to chase it as I was near the rainbow, heading in the same direction and only had to alter my course a little to run through it. It was kind of eerie, making the conscious decision to enter the rainbow, though!!

5 Joanne { 10.07.13 at 10:40 am }

I have seen an inverted rainbow. What is the explanation for this.

6 Susi { 09.07.13 at 10:49 am }

I too had an “end of the rainbow” experience. I don’t understand how it happened, but I drove through it on the highway. It was a weird experience and I probably wouldn’t have believed someone who told me such a thing! As the article says “the top of the arc is always centered on the viewers head.” That makes perfect sense – until you find yourself at the “end” of a rainbow, which really shouldn’t exist since its really a circle above the earth. Nevertheless, I went right through those colors! Somehow it even seemed like time stood still for a brief moment. It was awesome, in the true sense of the word!

7 Tom Chichon { 08.21.13 at 11:01 am }

While camping on the shore of a small lake, my wife and I watched the end of a rainbow move across the surface of the water. We estimated it was moving at approximately 20 mph. The strangest thing was the waters surface appeared to look as if it was roiling or turbid under the rainbows foot print as it moved past us.

8 Michael Manicone { 08.16.13 at 10:30 am }

I saw a triple rainbow one afternoon in Fort Myers Beach, FL. After the storm subsided, two very clear rainbows were visible with a third, very faint rainbow above them. Quite a sight!

9 Dora { 08.15.13 at 12:29 am }

Another way to remember the colours of the rainbow is: Richard of York gave blood in vein…..

10 Joy { 08.14.13 at 4:02 pm }

I understand the science behind this but we should not forget that God set the bow in the sky as a reminder that He will never flood the entire earth again. He is an Amazing God!

11 marge { 08.14.13 at 3:52 pm }

I watched a rainbow take form. I saw the rainbow as it arched then I watched it coming across the street then it landed right in front of me! I held out my arm and it reflected all the colors.. It was the most amazing thing to happen. sorry to say there was no gold at the end of the rainbow .just me!

12 James Stone { 08.14.13 at 2:49 pm }

The rainbow was Gods promise to Noah that He would not destrowe the earth with water again.

13 Doug johnson { 08.14.13 at 12:58 pm }

You can see a complete rainbow by using a garden hose
on spray or mist mode

14 willow farwood { 08.14.13 at 12:35 pm }

I once saw a “moonbow”, it was a full moon in Oahu, Hawaii, and there were showers “Mauka” or mountain showers on a warm night. The moonlight was almost daylight bright, and the moonbow was a ghostly pale version of the daytime rainbow. It was a very moving moment, breathtakingly beautiful!

15 Jennifer { 08.14.13 at 11:44 am }

I saw the end of a rainbow once as well. I was waiting for some explanation to this in this article.

16 Lothringen { 08.14.13 at 8:12 am }

I actually saw the end of a rainbow once. Driving home from work one afternoon I noticed the end of a rainbow seemed to be coming down right at the Hi-U Apartments where I lived. Once inside, I looked out my second-story back window and there it was, across the street, in a trucking yard, a mist of rainbow colors. Never could figure it. The end of a rainbow in a trucking yard across the street from a Commerce City, Colorado flop house.

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