How Do Rainbows Form?

rainbow 1.jpgI love to look out over the Rocky Mountains after it has been raining.  The air seems so clear and crisp.  I feel as if I can see forever.  I especially like when I a storm has passed over and I can look off in the distance and see a rainbow in the sky.  There is something so magical about a rainbow.  It is so fleeting, so surreal almost as if it is not real.  If you look away and look back it may be gone already.

I know that rainbows form when there is rain or clouds in the sky and sunshine, but I was wondering how exactly do they form?

Here is another fun fact about nature.  As many of us know, rainbows happen when sunlight and rain combine.  They do not always produce rainbows, but they do so if they combine in a certain way.  There are three things necessary in order to see a rainbow:

  1. Bright sunlight,
  2. Water droplets in the air, and
  3. The proper angle to look at it.

Sunlight is white, which means it is actually made up of all the colors in the rainbow.  If the sunlight enters a raindrop at the right angle then the white light gets divided into the seven colors of the color spectrum.  These colors then continue out of the raindrop and appear as a seven colored rainbow if seen from the proper angle.

The seven colors that we see in the rainbows are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.

Interestingly, you can only see rainbows if the sun is located behind you.  The sunlight travels from behind you, hits raindrops in the sky where it is broken up into the seven colors, and then is reflected back towards the viewer in the colors of the rainbow.  This allows you to see it out in front of you.  As you move, or the sun moves, the angle of the sunlight that you see changes and you no longer see the rainbow.

full rainbow.jpgHere is a photo of the super special complete rainbow.  Whenever I see a complete rainbow I feel like it is a good day.