Facts About Rainbows

Home & Family, Outdoors
on October 10, 2011

You can stare at a rainbow for only so long before someone asks how rainbows are formed or why are they bent. Read on, and you’ll be able to answer those questions and more the next time you see a rainbow.

  • The beautiful arc of prismatic colors appearing in the heavens opposite the sun is caused by the refraction and reflection of the sun’s rays in drops of rain.
  • Red, orange, yellow, blue, indigo and violet are well-known rainbow colors. The Franklin Institute, however, points out that a rainbow actually consists of all the colors in the spectrum, even colors the human eye can’t see.
  • When you are looking at a rainbow, the sun is always behind you, and the center of a rainbow’s arc is directly opposite to the sun.
  • Sunlight appears to be white. It actually consists of all the colors in the spectrum, so when sunlight is refracted by water, the colors are separated and visible individually.
  • Each rainbow is a personal visual pleasure. The rainbow you’re looking at has been refracted by different raindrops than the rainbow the person standing next to you is seeing.
  • A rainbow has no end. As you move, the rainbow moves.
  • Double rainbows are caused by the double refraction of sunlight through a raindrop.
  • The colors of a rainbow appear as they do because different colors travel at different speeds when refracted, sending individual light colors off at different angles.
  • Rainbows take the form of an arc because different colors of light bend at different angles. The violets and blues bend at a 40-degree angle, which means you only see blue and violet light reflected by the drops you see at a 40-degree angle. Oranges and reds bend at a 42-degree angle, meaning you only see orange and red light refracted from drops of water you see at a 42-degree angle.