A rainbow is one of the most spectacular naturally-occurring light shows that on earth. Occurring as sunlight is split into the spectrum of colors in the sky by the water droplets of a recent rain, the rainbow is a beautiful site to behold. Most people have never noticed, but the sun is always behind you when you see a rainbow, and rain is always in the direction of the rainbow. A rainbow occurs when rain is falling in one portion of the sky and the sun is shining in another. For a rainbow to be seen, the sun must be behind an observer who is facing falling rain.
The traditional representation of a rainbow shows it made up of seven colors – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Actually, the rainbow is a whole continuum of colors from red to violet and even beyond the colors that the human eye can see. Sunlight is refracted as it enters a raindrop, which causes the different wavelengths (colors) of visible light to separate. Longer wavelengths of light (red) are bent the least while shorter wavelengths (violet) are bent the most.
Interesting Facts about Rainbows
Is there really gold at the end of a rainbow? And can you even get to the end of a rainbow? Is the white light really the seven colors of the rainbow. The waves and frequencies of light are reflected in the colors. Prisms refract light waves to create colors of the rainbow. How do rainbows occur in the sky?
A rainbow is a band of individual colors forming an arc that is formed by reflection and refraction (or bending) of the sunlight inside raindrops. They appear when it is raining in one part of the sky and sunny in another. Rainbows occur when sunlight shines through droplets of moisture in the atmosphere. The light is dispersed as it is refracted, causing the colors to appear. In other words, when light enters the raindrop it reflects off the side of the raindrop and as it exits the white light is broken down into all the colors of the visible spectrum.
We are able to see the colors of a rainbow because the white light is refracted when it travels from one medium, such as air, and into another. When all the colors of the rainbow are combined, they look white, but once they are refracted, the colors break into the individual colors of the rainbow.
Every person sees their own “personal” rainbow. The rainbow that you are seeing is from the light bouncing off of certain raindrops, but when the person standing next to you looks at the same rainbow, they see the light bouncing off other raindrops from a completely different angle. In addition, everyone sees colors differently according to light and how their eyes interpret it.
You can never actually reach the end of a rainbow. As you move, the rainbow that your eyes see moves as well, because the raindrops are at different spots in the atmosphere. The rainbow will always move away at the same rate that you are moving, so you can never found a pot of gold that supposedly awaits at the end of the rainbow.