JAN 12, 2017 11:31 AM PST

How does a rainbow form?


You probably already know that sunlight consists of all the colors, as well as a bunch of wave-lengths that humans cannot see. When light travels from air to water (changes mediums), it slows down and enters the water at a different angle, a process called refraction. So, in the case of water, light can enter a droplet and bounce off like a mirror at a different angle. And because each color has a different wavelength, every color is slowed to a different degree and bounces off at a different angle. For example, red light will exit at an angle of 42 degrees while blue light exits at an angle of 40. All of the other colors fall between this range. This phenomena scatters the colors so that we can see them individually.

But there's another factor in the making of a rainbow. They only happen in YOU are in the right position; aka with the sunlight behind you and low in the sky. As for the arcing of a rainbow, the light itself actually forms in a full circle. However. the lower half of the arc is typically blocked by the earth. Unless you happen to be skydiving at the right moment (which few have experienced), you won't be able to see the full rainbow circle.
About the Author
BA Environmental Studies
Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
NOV 07, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Scientists Detect Origin of Fast Radio Burst in Milky Way
NOV 07, 2020
Scientists Detect Origin of Fast Radio Burst in Milky Way
Scientists have identified a burst of cosmic radio waves- intense flashes of radio emission that last just a few millise ...
DEC 28, 2020
Space & Astronomy
China Willing to Share New Moon Samples
DEC 28, 2020
China Willing to Share New Moon Samples
China has recovered the first new moon rock samples in decades, and from a previously unexplored part of the moon. Now w ...
FEB 10, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Do Salt and Melting Ice Cause Landslides on Mars?
FEB 10, 2021
Do Salt and Melting Ice Cause Landslides on Mars?
Recurrent slope lineae (RSL) are dark flows that extend downhill on Mars to form sandy patterns on its surface. Research ...
FEB 19, 2021
Plants & Animals
What can Lemurs Teach us About Love?
FEB 19, 2021
What can Lemurs Teach us About Love?
Although not entirely accurate, romantic sentiments such as "you're my lobster" or "you're my pen ...
FEB 19, 2021
Plants & Animals
Group of Migrating Gray Whales Makes a Puget Sound Pitstop
FEB 19, 2021
Group of Migrating Gray Whales Makes a Puget Sound Pitstop
Washington’s Puget Sound is famously home to resident and transient orca pods. However, during their yearly migrat ...
JUL 23, 2021
Neuroscience
Does the Rise of Neurotech Spell the End of Humanity as We Know it?
JUL 23, 2021
Does the Rise of Neurotech Spell the End of Humanity as We Know it?
Researchers from Imperial College London have written an overview of currently available commercial brain-computer inter ...
Loading Comments...