Facts About Rainbows

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A rainbow can be defined as a band of colors (from red on the inside to violet on the outside) assembled as an arc that is formed by reflection and refraction (or bending) of the sun’s rays inside raindrops. It appears when it is raining in one part of the sky and sunny in another.

Fact 1.  Rainbows are always seen after a rain. The sun will be behind you and the rain in front of you. The center of the rainbow’s arc is directly opposite the rain.

Fact 2.   The light of different colors are refracted or bent when it travels from a medium such as the air and into another medium such as water. In this case, they are raindrops. When the colors of the sunlight are combined, it is white in color. On refraction, the colors break up into a rainbow.

Fact 3.    There is no such thing as the end of a rainbow. As you move, the rainbow you see moves as well. This is because it is the refraction of the light in the raindrops at different locations in the atmosphere.

Fact 4.  From an airplane, the entire circle of the rainbow can be seen.

Fact 5.  The sky is brighter inside the rainbow due to the rainbow’s rays.

Fact 6.  Sir Isaac Newton discovered that sunlight falling upon a prism could be split into different colors which he called red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. The color indigo was included because Newton preferred seven instead of six due to religious concerns.

Fact 7.  Supernumerary arcs are found in some rainbows. They are faint arcs found inside and near the top of the primary bow. Thomas Young in 1804 explained that the arcs were due to the interference of light along rays within the raindrops.

Fact 8.  Similar to the refraction of light from the sun, light from a full moon can be refracted by raindrops. This is called a lunar rainbow. As light from the moon is not as bright compared to sunlight, the lunar rainbow is much fainter.

Fact 9.  Throughout the ages, Man has described the rainbow in different ways.  In Norse mythology, the rainbow, called Bifrost, was the bridge between Midgard (the mortal world) and Asgard (the world of the gods and divinity). For the Irish, there is to be found a pot of gold and a leprechaun at the end of the rainbow. The Greeks believed rainbows were a form of transportation for the Greek goddess Iris.

Fact 10.  Rainbows are found all over the world irrespective of location or climate.

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