Storms are known to rain down all sorts of atmospheric goodies: hail, lightning, snow…ummm…rain. And rainbows. Two of them. Apparently.
Paula Graham kept her eye on the sky and witnessed something that would cause an average mortal’s cranium to crack open while their brain explodes into gooey globules.
Water is a wacky substance! It can shape-shift into three states: solid, liquid or gas, and each state exhibits vastly different powers.
Water droplets, for example, have the power to refract sunlight and reveal a prismatic curtain of colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. We call these aerial ethereal splotchy hues—rainbows.
Imagine something this: A sunbeam enters a water droplet, and then colorful rays jiggle inside of the spherical H2O domain. Each colorful ray exits at slightly different angles and speeds, which causes a rainbow to manifest out of thin
air water droplets.
Is that the full story? Absolutely not. That’s the typical over simplification—considering it takes many sets of water droplets to make a rainbow. Not just one.
A single water droplet does not emit all of the colors of the rainbow. Each set of water droplets emits its own specific color.
** Super Fun Fact ** The Sun must be situated behind the observer in order for a rainbow to become visible. Don’t believe me? Go outside, put the Sun toward your back, and turn on your garden hose! You can make your very own rainbow!…don’t have a hose? Grab your 12 gauge shotgun and lock ‘n’ load! Ta-da! Welcome to the magic of science.
So…what the hell is going on with the mystical double rainbow? Is it simply leprechaun magic? Yes! I mean…absolutely not! Double rainbows occur when sunlight reflects twice inside of a curtain of falling water droplets. That’s it. Well. Not really.
Angles play an important role…and…hey! Wait a second.
Did you notice something strange? Let’s take another gander at Paula’s image:
Do you see it? Take a really close look.
The secondary bow has its colors reversed! The blueish hues sit on top of the arc while the red hues sit toward the bottom. The secondary bow also appears diffuse, dimmer and larger. But I’m sure you noticed that.
Wait!…did you notice something else?
The sky between the primary arc and the secondary arc is darker. This ominous effect is known as Alexander’s dark band. The primary or secondary arc reflects light and makes the sky between the bows appear darker.
There are a variety of different rainbows:
Double Rainbows (Obviously)
Single Band Rainbows
Whoa. Wait a minute. Once you start considering all the angles, speed, dispersion, refraction, water droplet geometry…perhaps leprechaun magic is really at work here! Is there really a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow? Nope! Just a big pot of glittering science.
Thanks for submitting your double rainbow photograph Paula! Keep your eye on the sky!
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