When Rainbows Embrace Global Cities

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Image: Tihanyi Photography

We can’t help but see the allegory in this photograph, with the rainbow ending just below L.A.’s famous Hollywood sign. Lots of people have certainly chased a dream to find their pot of gold there.

The band of colors is pretty wide in this shot, too – great for seeing just how many shades you can spot, alongside the seven well-known colors.


Image: Aidan Gibbons

If you look carefully at this graceful curve above Singapore, you’ll see that it is, in fact, a double rainbow! The second is just outside of the first, and slightly fainter. Second rainbows aren’t all that unusual; it’s just that because they are lighter than the main rainbow, we rarely notice them.

These extra arches appear when light is reflected from water drops at an angle of 50° to 53° (from the sun) rather than just the usual 42° for primary rainbows. So, next time you’re admiring a rainbow, look closely and see if it has a ghostly twin shimmering away nearby.

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Image: Joe Schumacher

Here’s a close-up look at the double rainbow effect, this time over Seattle. Theoretically, light can refract through raindrops at even more than two angles, but double rainbows are the most we generally see.

For the residents of Seattle, there is a plus side to their frequent drizzles with sunny patches: it’s the perfect condition for rainbows!

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