Understanding How Rainbows Are Formed – Enjoying Nature’s Beauty With Deeper Understanding

The soul would have no rainbow had the eyes no tears.
~ John Vance Cheney

Roy G. Biv. That’s mister rainbow’s name. Or at least that’s how I learned how to remember all the colours of the rainbow by giving mister rainbow a name. Roy G. Biv. Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo and Violet are the colours we see from the rainbow.

Many of you were no doubt taught better ways how to remember the colours of the rainbow. But somehow that one stuck with me and that is how I have come to remember the colours of the rainbow. And also the order in which they appear.

Every rainbow always shows the same colours in that order from top to bottom. Always red at the top and blue/violet at the bottom.

Why is that, well, that is what we’re going to talk about today; how rainbows are formed.

Rainbows have been called one of the most spectacular and beautiful light shows on earth and I’d have to agree. They inspire us, stone us out 🙂 and go viral at the same time. Understanding how rainbows come to be can only give us a greater appreciation of these natural wonders.

Some might disagree. Some feel that having an intimate understanding of how something develops or works makes you less inclined to appreciate it. I think you’ve lost your natural curiosity if that is how you feel. We need to stand in wonder of this beautiful world like a child on her first Christmas morning. The gifts are all around us.

So how does nature make rainbows?
Well, in a nutshell, the sun’s rays of light hit and enter a droplet of rain and these rays of light are scattered and dispersed when they leave the raindrop as individual wavelengths of the visual spectrum. And most likely beyond the visual spectrum, it’s just that we can’t see them.

If you remember much about elementary or even junior high school you might have been introduced to Newton’s Prism. Basically, in a prism and also in a raindrop, the light is refracted once inside the prism or raindrop and then reflected out in the spectrum of colours we see.

Interestingly, in a primary rainbow which is when there is only one the light is only reflected out of the water droplet once.

However, when there is a double rainbow the light is reflected out of the raindrop in 2 individual portions. So you get the primary rainbow in this case that is the lower and more vibrant rainbow and then above it is the secondary or double rainbow. The second rainbow is always weaker and above the primary rainbow, and interestingly, the colours of the secondary rainbow are always reversed.

A primary rainbow will always show Roy G. Biv, but a secondary rainbow will always show the reverse or Vib G. Yor.

As an aside, it was Newton who gave us the 7 colours of the rainbow that we use as red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

Rainbows’ colour bands require human colour vision. In other words if you took a black and white photo of a rainbow you would only see a gradation of grey and not the specific bands of colour the are found in the rainbow. Also, folks who are colour blind will naturally see a lesser number of colour bands.

Rainbows can be seen only opposite the sun. So if you were looking into the sun you wouldn’t be able to see any rainbows, but if you turned away from the sun then the rainbows would appear. This makes sense because the sunlight is required to enter the raindrops or water droplets at specific angles in order to refract and reflect the light so that we may see the rainbows beautiful coloured bands.

You will find that you can see the most visually stunning and beautiful rainbows when the sun is lower towards the horizon with bright skies in its vicinity and when there are still dark rain clouds opposite from which the rainbow will appear to develop.

That’s how rainbows form in a nutshell. Very neat and for me, understanding the how of rainbow development does not diminish their glorious effects, rather it fills me with even greater awe.

Just another gift of nature’s bountiful wonderments. Authentic living can be had on the cheap when we open our eyes like children and stare in wonder and awe at the amazing treasures that are to had freely around us within reach of our fingertips.

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