Why some rainbows are all red | Science News

Real Science. Real News.

Science News is a nonprofit.

Support us by subscribing now.


News in Brief

Why some rainbows are all red

Sun’s spot in the sky influences how light bends to form colorful arcs

By
12:14pm, December 18, 2015
rainbow

ON THE SPECTRUM  Rainbows containing only a limited fraction of the light spectrum form as the sun drops lower in the sky, new research finds.

SAN FRANCISCO — Some rainbows don’t contain all the colors of the rainbow. The height of the sun above the horizon can yield arcs that contain only a fraction of the traditional ROYGBIV, researchers reported December 17 at the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting.

Rainbows appear when sunlight bends as it passes through airborne water droplets. Different parts of the light spectrum bend by different amounts, breaking the light into its individual color components and creating a colorful arc.

On rare occasion, a rainbow will contain just part of the color spectrum. Previous work suggested that these less colorful or even monochromatic rainbows form primarily due to the size of the light-bending water droplets. Atmospheric scientist Jean Ricard of the National Centre for Meteorological Research in Toulouse, France, and colleagues cataloged hundreds of

This article is only available to Science News subscribers. Already a subscriber? Log in now.
Or subscribe today for full access.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content