Image: Patrik E.
Remember spotting a rainbow as a child and feeling the sudden urge to jump up and down, point and shout: “Look, a rainbow!” Well, the following pictures of semicircular, double or sunset rainbows might make you do just that. In any case, if this were a rainbow beauty pageant, they’d all be perfect tens. So heed this warning that extreme beauty will follow and scroll with care!
A double sunset rainbow in McFall, Missouri, spanning a lone tree:
Image: Carl S.
Silicon Valley is rarely as beautiful as it is with this sunset rainbow:
Image: Steve Jurvetson
The next picture is an absolute favorite that looks like one of those kitschy posters of islands in a soap bubble, only this one is real!
An island in the Maldives spanned by an almost semicircular rainbow:
If that was a favorite, here’s another one:
A perfectly clear primary rainbow, reflected in the water, with a secondary rainbow above as photographed in Kansas:
Image: Patrick Emerson
Time for a little break, perhaps?
According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionay, a rainbow is “an arc or circle that exhibits in concentric bands the colors of the spectrum and that is formed opposite the sun by the refraction and reflection of the sun’s rays in raindrops, spray, or mist.”
Basically, the sun shines onto droplets of moisture in the atmosphere, like rain, mist, dew and spray, and forms a reflection of the sun’s rays. Though rainbows span a continuous spectrum of colours, what we see is a finite sequence, usually according to Newton’s seven identified colours, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. These are often remembered with popular mnemonics like “Richard of Yorke gave battle in vain.”
An illuminated rainbow in Serrieres in the canton of Neuchatel, Switzerland. The picture looks a bit unreal because it was taken with HDR technique:
Image: Tambako the Jaguar
The person in this picture says it all. Caught in the middle of natural beauty, what would you do? And does anyone else strangely feel like yodeling?
A perfect, semicircular rainbow at Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias National Park:
Image: Eric Rolph
Somewhere over the rainbow… A rainbow taken from a helicopter:
Image: Mila Zinkova
A picture perfect double rainbow spans the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia:
A 200-degree rainbow with a faint secondary one taken on St. Johns, U.S. Virgin Islands:
Image: Tom Harnish
Another rare, semicircular sunset rainbow at the beach of Carsethorn, Scotland:
Image: Mike Bolam
Secondary rainbows are caused by a double reflection of sunlight inside the raindrops. The space between two rainbows is called Alexander’s band after a scientist with the enticing name Alexander of Aphrodisias, who first described the phenomenon.
A stunningly perfect semicircular rainbow that seems to be radiating out of the secondary one over a field in Whitestone, Alaska. Notice the reversed colour sequence for the secondary rainbow.
Image: Jeremy Austin
This photograph of a rainbow in Iceland also demonstrates beautifully that the air below a rainbow is always brighter than the one on top.
The rainbow over the Gulfoss Falls in Iceland is created by sunlight hitting the falls’ mist:
Image: Laurent Deschodt
Er, well, not always… Notice how in this picture, New York City is under such a blanket of smog that the part of the sky over the rainbow actually looks much brighter.
A perfectly semicircular rainbow spanning New York City, seen from New Jersey:
Image: Andrew Wong
This photograph proves that rainbows looks stunning even in black and white. Notice the pronounced and dark Alexander’s band between the two rainbows.
Double rainbow caught in black and white over Melbourne:
Semicircular rainbow over a field with a lonely tree in Germany. Can you make out the faint secondary rainbow?
This semicircular rainbow in Zelenograd, Russia, seems to protect the scenery from the bad weather outside the soap bubble:
A rainbow spanning the Andes, its tip dramatically ending in the clouds. The ancient city of Macchu Picchu is on the right:
Image: Thomas Quine
And finally, a rainbow that is no rainbow. An upside-down rainbow is actually a rare optical illusion called a sundog. Sundogs appear when a low sun catches the atmosphere’s thin vapour of ice crystals, six miles above the Earth’s surface. The sun’s rays are refracted by the sun and produce something like a halo around it. Often, it appears white but can also display a spectrum of colours, which is why sundogs are often confused with rainbows.
Sundog taken at the beach of Tulum in Quintana Roo in northwestern Yucatan, Mexico:
Image: Robert Brands
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