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
  • 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 21, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
NOV 21, 2019
Ultra-dark Material Constructed with Carbon Nanotubes
The reason why we can "see" is because when light rays strike an object, a portion of them get reflected at its surface and enter into our eyes....
NOV 21, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
NOV 21, 2019
Dolphins Lost 85 Genes to Become Aquatic
Dolphins, whales and porpoises are marine mammals; otherwise known as cetaceans. Although they live exclusively underwater nowadays, tens of millions of ye...
NOV 21, 2019
Space & Astronomy
NOV 21, 2019
SpaceX Will Need to Demonstrate a Dragon Capsule Abort for NASA
NASA’s Commercial Crew initiative enabled third-party contractors such as Boeing and SpaceX to develop platforms that may be used in future crewed mi...
NOV 21, 2019
Space & Astronomy
NOV 21, 2019
How Much Do You Know About Triton?
Far beyond the reach of the terrestrial and gas giant planets in our solar system exists an entirely different class of world known as ice giants. Uranus a...
NOV 21, 2019
Plants & Animals
NOV 21, 2019
How a Rattlesnake's 'Rattle' Works
Rattlesnakes are one of the most discernible snakes in the animal kingdom, not only because of their appearance, but also because of how they shake their t...
NOV 21, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
NOV 21, 2019
What are "Tears of Wine"?
Have you noticed: every time after pouring wine, near the top of a wine glass there's always a ring of liquid, where droplets form and continue to fall...
Loading Comments...