How many times have you marveled at a rainbow as the sun's rays reveal a kaleidoscope of colors in the sky?
Rainbows are one of nature's most sublime beauties. Surrounded by myth and legend, the rainbow is as ancient as the world itself and has been held in awe since the beginning of time.
In Greek mythology the rainbow represented a path between heaven and earth. In Norse mythology the rainbow was a bridge between Asgard, the home of the gods, and Midgard, the home of humans. According to Christians, the rainbow was a sign from God promising not to destroy earthly life after the Floods of Noah (Genesis 9:13-17). The Arawak Indians saw the rainbow as a sign of good fortune if seen over the ocean, and, according to the Irish, it's the leprechaun's hiding place for his pot of gold. The myth surrounding the pot of gold has been around since time immemorial. The gold is said to have been left by angels where – according to one Eastern European country – only a naked man can claim it!
Rainbows occur when light and water meet. On a sunny day when the water droplets in the atmosphere are hit by sunlight, the rainbow can be seen as the water reflects and refracts the sun's rays, which are not the white light that we appear to see but a mix of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet light – the colors of the rainbow. Rainbows are always seen opposite the sun, which is why we only see them when we have our backs to the sun. The lower the sun is in the sky, the higher the rainbow. The red bands on the outer edge of the rainbow are the long light waves, and the blue and violet colors on the inside are the short light waves. The rainbow is an optical illusion made up of just light and water and is always seen in front of you – hence the pot of gold is never found!
If the phenomenon of just one rainbow isn't enough, there are secondary rainbows, supernumeraries, reflection bows, seawater bows, red bows, cloud bows, fog bows, dew bows, twin bows and moon bows. Rainbows take on many forms. You will notice that it is always lighter on the inside of a rainbow as the raindrops direct light in that direction. Supernumerary bows are the closely spaced arcs inside the primary rainbow made up of greens and purples. A fainter secondary rainbow is often formed on the outside of the main rainbow and its colors are reversed. This is a result of light passing twice through a raindrop. The sky between these two rainbows is noticeably darker. This is known as Alexander's dark band; Alexander was the first to describe the effect in AD200. As the light is reflected inside the primary rainbow, light is reflected outside the secondary rainbow and so the light between the two seems darker.
Cloud iridescence or Coronas are formed when the wispy parts of clouds have similar sized water droplets or ice crystals. Light is diffracted as it passes through the droplet or crystals producing intensely bright colors fringed with yellows and reds. Halos or circles around the sun or moon are also created by the sun's light as it shines down and bends through hazy clouds with tiny ice crystals high up in the sky. These are known as Parhelia or more commonly, Sundogs. Sundogs can be seen at any time and in any place in the world but are most noticeable when the sun is low in the sky.
So, as Mother Nature arcs her multihued spectrum across the sky, witness one of life's small wonders and enjoy the colorful, free display.
Rosie and her husband, both from the UK, have cruised the Caribbean and North America for the last seven years on Alianna their Corbin39.