5 Facts About Rainbows You Need Right Now

Check out these fun and fascinating facts about one of nature's most magical phenomena, rainbows.

No weather phenomenon captures the human imagination quite like a rainbow. That translucent band of bright colors arcing perfectly over the landscape looks otherworldly.

And, in fact, rainbows have been tinged in myth and folklore for much of human history. Some have viewed them as pathways to magical or celestial realms, some have seen them as a sign from God, or the gods, some view them as good luck, or a path to riches.

What causes rainbows to form?

Magical as they may seem, rainbows are perfectly natural. They are an optical illusion on water and light that form because white light is comprised of all colors of the spectrum. When light passes through water, it is refracted into its component colors. Rainbows can appear any time there are water droplets in the air and the sunlight shines from behind them at a low angle. That means they are more likely to appear in the early morning or later afternoon.

Here are 5 fun and interesting facts about rainbows!

1.Rainbows can only appear directly opposite from the Sun. Where, and even if, a rainbow appears is influenced by where the viewer is in relationship to the sun. Rainbows have no set physical location. A person who appears to be standing at the end of a rainbow from another person’s perspective won’t see the rainbow in the same place, but will instead see another rainbow in a different location, opposite the sun. The top of the arc is always centered on the viewer’s head.

2. A rainbow contains seven colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. You may recall from your school days that an easy way to remember the order of the colors in the spectrum is by using this popular mnemonic, ROY G. BIV. These colors appear in order according to their wavelengths.

3. Sometimes a so-called “double rainbow” forms, with a fainter rainbow appearing on top of the main one. This occurs when the light is reflected twice in each raindrop, instead of just once. The double reflection causes the second rainbow to be inverted, so in a double rainbow, the colors in the secondary bow appear in the reverse order compared to the primary, or darker rainbow.

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4. The sky beneath a rainbow appears brighter than the sky above it. Light rays are refracted into the area inside the arch, causing that area to appears brighter. The area outside the rainbow appears darker by contrast. In a double rainbow, this dark area above the primary rainbow even more pronounced, resulting in a very dark band between the two rainbows. This dark area is called Alexander’s band, after Alexander of Aphrodisias, a Greek philosopher described this phenomena 1800 years ago.

5. Rainbows appear to be a semi-circle because the horizon interferes. In order to see the full circle of the rainbow, you would have to look down on it with the sun behind you. This scenario is only possible from an airplane. In fact, it is possible to see a rainbow in a complete circle while flying. When this happens, the plane’s shadow appears in the center of the circle. Read about Brocken Spectres here.

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Jaime McLeod

Jaime McLeod is a longtime journalist who has written for a wide variety of newspapers, magazines, and websites, including MTV.com. She enjoys the outdoors, growing and eating organic food, and is interested in all aspects of natural wellness.

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i really like rainbows is it poosabell to see pink in the rainbow

Allen darnell

Summer 2014 Sf Bay, I was sailing with three people 2-3 miles south of the Oakland bay Bridge on a south eastern heading. We happened to see a full circle rainbow over the entire southbay for the entire 4 hours of our race training. We got back to south beach yact club and many club members had witnessed the same thing. So therefore the full rainbow is seen when flying above or from the water below. All that I know saw this are expert sailors and live their lives on the water, and none had ever witnessed this before. It was beautiful and truly inspiring in my faith in GOD reminding me of the covenant of GOD the rainbow represents.

Susan Higgins

Hi Allen, thanks for sharing the story. It must have been an awesome sight!

Jeffrey Tenny

You can grab your garden hose any time and stand in the yard when the sun is shining and make a mist and create a rainbow.. when you step back and learn about rainbows you might learn that even you can make such an amazing thing a reality. And nobody ever said it isnt a rainbow just because you make it. And I can start a sentence with “because” or “and” because theres no rules. I just thought I would share this little life hack.. if we all did it you could probably see it from space.. oh snap!


So sorry about your home, dog, and truck. There have been some beautiful experiences with rainbows in these comments. I always look for this sign God gave to Noah because it is also a sign that we can plant a garden and get a harvest that year.


I saw a rainbow once. And then i saw the hurricane make land fall and flooded my house in 15 feet of water completely ripping it off the foundation. Truck was in a tree 3 blocks away and never saw my dog again. But man that was a pretty rainbow.


Rainbows are caused by sunlight retracting through raindrops. They are not created by God because there is no such thing as a God. The idea of God was created by man so is therefore only fiction. If only people realized this there would be much less war.


Brian, I might have expressed your same thoughts about 30 years ago, in my lack of personal experience and within all the darkness that I walked. However, my lack of seeking Him, or my own denial, would not have made Him any less real. While you may not believe in God, He still believes in you. In fact, He knows the number of hairs on your head, and was in your mother’s womb when you were created. He even knew you before you were born. My hope and prayer for you is that in the coming days that He might make His presence known to you, for He is real and without Him, you wouldn’t even exist.

John Doe

Ah, so God is a microbe-carrying astroid.


I heard a saying that went something like this: Reality can become absurdity when a man professes to know so much about creation that he no longer believes in the creator. For he need only look at his own two hands and ponder the creations which he has accomplished with them, and ask of himself that fundamental question with such regard. The ancient civilizations knew that knowledge was the key that unlocked the door to the human mind which is either a prison or a fortress depending on his own set of values and beliefs.


we would have less wars if there were fewer non-believers.

9-AH Nina

I always thought the rainbow was a sign? to Noah that God would never flood the earth again ?


I was on the beach and was talking up to heaven w my sister gone since 2002- I asked her to give me a sign that she was listening. This white rainbow appeared- I’m confused I never seen such a thing. Maybe she’s joking w me by sending me a colorless rainbow?? Any way what does that mean it’s was about 5 pm on Mother’s Day on Jersey shore


I love to take pictures of rainbows, and I am noticing that they used to be high up in the sky, and now I see that they are “hugging closer to the horizon.” Can you tell us why they are doing this? Also, the morning after Mount St. Helen erupted, I saw a double rainbow around the sun as I was descending down the mountain where I lived, and it was an awesome sight. I always wished I had my camera that morning to take a picture.


i do believe that rainbows are a sign of our covenant with God….


to lady that submit this I know you and the only thing I would like to find at the end is you

cathy harvey

God gave us the rainbow to remind us He would never again flood the whole earth as He did when Noah was in the ark with his families due to their being the only ones to do God’s will.Read this in Genesis 9:13

Amber Gottman

I once drove through the end of a rainbow it was a unexplainable experience. it was as if I was for a moment inside it. even while inside a car the bright colors seemed to surround us. ironically we happened to be on our way to the casino where our pot of gold so to speek was awaiting us.


I drove through a rainbow once, while on the lake. It was just like the first commenter said. It was like time stood still momentarily. It was surreal! I’m sure the phenomenon was all in my head as the boat didn’t stop or suddenly fill up with gold. I’ve chased rainbows on the water since then but never duplicated the event again. The first time it happened, I never had to chase it as I was near the rainbow, heading in the same direction and only had to alter my course a little to run through it. It was kind of eerie, making the conscious decision to enter the rainbow, though!!


I have seen an inverted rainbow. What is the explanation for this.

Nanya B

Did you read the article, it explains the inverted rainbow.


I too had an “end of the rainbow” experience. I don’t understand how it happened, but I drove through it on the highway. It was a weird experience and I probably wouldn’t have believed someone who told me such a thing! As the article says “the top of the arc is always centered on the viewers head.” That makes perfect sense – until you find yourself at the “end” of a rainbow, which really shouldn’t exist since its really a circle above the earth. Nevertheless, I went right through those colors! Somehow it even seemed like time stood still for a brief moment. It was awesome, in the true sense of the word!

Tom Chichon

While camping on the shore of a small lake, my wife and I watched the end of a rainbow move across the surface of the water. We estimated it was moving at approximately 20 mph. The strangest thing was the waters surface appeared to look as if it was roiling or turbid under the rainbows foot print as it moved past us.

Michael Manicone

I saw a triple rainbow one afternoon in Fort Myers Beach, FL. After the storm subsided, two very clear rainbows were visible with a third, very faint rainbow above them. Quite a sight!


Another way to remember the colours of the rainbow is: Richard of York gave blood in vein…..


‘battle in vain’


I understand the science behind this but we should not forget that God set the bow in the sky as a reminder that He will never flood the entire earth again. He is an Amazing God!


I watched a rainbow take form. I saw the rainbow as it arched then I watched it coming across the street then it landed right in front of me! I held out my arm and it reflected all the colors.. It was the most amazing thing to happen. sorry to say there was no gold at the end of the rainbow .just me!

James Stone

The rainbow was Gods promise to Noah that He would not destrowe the earth with water again.

Doug johnson

You can see a complete rainbow by using a garden hose
on spray or mist mode

willow farwood

I once saw a “moonbow”, it was a full moon in Oahu, Hawaii, and there were showers “Mauka” or mountain showers on a warm night. The moonlight was almost daylight bright, and the moonbow was a ghostly pale version of the daytime rainbow. It was a very moving moment, breathtakingly beautiful!


I saw the end of a rainbow once as well. I was waiting for some explanation to this in this article.


I actually saw the end of a rainbow once. Driving home from work one afternoon I noticed the end of a rainbow seemed to be coming down right at the Hi-U Apartments where I lived. Once inside, I looked out my second-story back window and there it was, across the street, in a trucking yard, a mist of rainbow colors. Never could figure it. The end of a rainbow in a trucking yard across the street from a Commerce City, Colorado flop house.


I was staying at my timeshare in St. Augustine Beach, Florida that my husband and I owned and had been to for at least a decade.

My husband passed and he said he would send me rainbows to tell me he was fine and it was beautiful up there.

For a year or more I saw massive number of Rainbows, some lasting as long as 20 minutes.

I even had what they called the earliest snowfall on my birthday, December 8th the year my husband passed, in Montgomery, AL, a rare thing. I knew that was from my husband because he knew this Southern gal loved the snow.

My girlfriend and I went to my timeshare late one summer. It wasn’t sad because I felt my husband’s presence.

One day I looked out the glass door and there was a brilliant double rainbow to the North of the beach. I knew it was from my husband.

A few minutes later I decided to go to the sauna and as I stepped out of my unit I could see another rainbow to the South of the Beach.

How could 2 rainbows ? appear 16 minutes apart from each other in opposite directions so soon after the first one. I still ponder that.

Anyone have an answer??


We may not have an answer for you, but we are happy to hear that you have had such beautiful reminders of your husband. We appreciate you sharing them with us!

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