What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word rainbow? An arc of seven prismatic vibrant colours, that’s the first thing that you think or visualize in your head. Since childhood, we all have personified the rainbow to magic, heaven or fairylands. Be it a child, a teen, a mediocre or an aged elderly, seeing a rainbow still leaves anyone awestruck and that ingenuous smile somehow just emerges on your face.
The pure delight that one feels upon seeing a rainbow prompts the significance of childhood and realize how time has passed by. If we talk science, a rainbow is an optical phenomenon and doesn’t really exist. It is caused by the reflection, refraction and dispersion of water droplets when light falls upon them. When sunlight falls upon a raindrop, some light is reflected and the remaining part of the light is absorbed by the droplet. The remaining light is refracted at the surface of the raindrop and is internally reflected. This phenomenon continues until the internal reflection reaches a range between 0° to 42° fanning out a wide range of the spectrum, resulting in a beguile Rainbow.
Forging ahead, a rainbow is not only an optical illusion or anunbridled admiration of nature but there are numerous facts that make the prismaticband of colors extraordinarilyunique and enigmatic in its own ways. Let’s read what are the 13 reasons why the rainbow is a bag of mystery!
13 reasons why the rainbow is a true mystery.
Arc or circle?
When one views a rainbow, all he or she can see is an arc of seven vibrant colors beginning from a point and fading endlessly. Here’s when optical illusion hits us hard! The rainbow is a circle when viewed from the top of the sky from a plane or helicopter. If you are lucky enough you can watch a full circle rainbow while skydiving too!
What to believe? Science or Folklore?
According to an old European belief, if a man or a woman passes through a rainbow, then he or she shall be transmogrified into the opposite gender as a result of their karma. They say if you reach the end of the rainbow, a pot of gaudy and lustrous gold awaits you.
While these are the beliefs that we have been hearing since childhood, scientists find it hard to comprehend and state the contrary, i.e. an optical illusion. Let’s find out what is present at end of the rainbow. It’s heartbreaking to know that you might never find a pot of gold once you reach the end of a rainbow because there is no end. As one move, so does the rainbow that you see. Just like a mirage, the optical illusion phenomenon works here as well! The raindrops that cause the rainbow when sunlight falls upon them, are located at different places in the air because of which when one moves close towards the rainbow, the exact same distance the rainbow moves away. That leaves you exactly where you started.
Indeed looks are deceptive!
Perspectives and Views are similar triangles.
Just like opinions and perspectives vary from individual to individual, similarly one’s outlook while watching a rainbow may vary from individual to individual. So the next time you see a person standing beneath a rainbow, that person might see the rainbow from a different angle. Strangely interesting, even our eyes don’t see the same rainbow, each eye views it from a different angle.
Rainbows at night as well?
Yes, some dreamy magical night, you might just come across a rainbow. A rainbow is formed wherever there are water droplet and shiny light. Be it a fog, a mist, sea spray or even a waterfall, a rainbow can occur anywhere amidst the daylight or in the night where the angles are conducive. Fan of the Unicorns? Look for them where a moonbow is formed.
Do double rainbows exist?
Just like the formation of a single rainbow, a double rainbow is formed under the same conditions. When light falls on a water droplet, part of it is reflected and rest is refracted. The refracted light strikes at the back surface of the droplet and is internally reflected producing an arc of the spectrum. In case of a double rainbow, the sunlight is reflected twice within a raindrop.
Talking about a double rainbow, our curious minds must think what is in between the rainbow and its double. The light that reflects rain droplets in the area between the rainbow and it’s double does not reach the observer, therefore making this part of the sky darker. Alexander of Aphrodisias was the first to discover this part in 200 A D, hence naming it the Alexander’s Band.
Rainbow and its types
There are approximately nine types of rainbows. To name a few, Primary, Supernumerary, Monochrome, Multiple and Twin rainbows are common types of rainbows.
Newton and his discovery.
It was Sir Isaac Newton that first discovered that sunlight splits into its component colors when falls upon a prism and identified the 7 candy colors in a rainbow – VIBGYOR.
Rainbow, not an object!
Since optical illusion is a major phenomenon in the creation of a rainbow, here’s another fact, a rainbow can never be physically touched or approached.
Rainbow with its history.
Initially, the rainbow was not considered to have 7 colors. Aristotle discovered that the rainbow contains three colors and no other color. An addition to the discovery was made when it was decided that the rainbow contains four colors during the Renaissance period. While the west thinkers took the rainbow to be of five colors – red, yellow, green, blue and purple by the 17th century. René Descartes discovered that the sunlight splits into different colors by rain and forms a rainbow in the year 1637. The seven colors were given by Sir Isaac Newton in the year 1666, by adding indigo and orange to the earlier five colors.
On March 14, 1994, in Sheffield, England, the world’s longest observed rainbow was seen from 9 in the morning till 3 in the afternoon.