Rainbow Facts
Rainbow Facts

29 Multicolored Rainbow Facts

James Israelsen
By James Israelsen, Associate Writer
Published January 6, 2021
  • Before the invention of electricity, the only electromagnetic wavelengths present on earth in any significant amount were those corresponding to the colors seen in a rainbow.[2]
  • Rainbows are a solely optical phenomenon rather than actual physical objects with spatial dimensions and mass.[4]
  • Rainbows, which are distorted images of the sun, would appear as complete circles if the earth's horizon did not block our view.[4]
  • A rainbow's arc is relative to the position of the person observing it, so it is impossible for two people to actually see the exact same rainbow.[4]
  • Rainbows are the optical result of rays of sunlight being bent as they pass through falling raindrops.[4]
  • The bow of all rainbows is always seen at an angle between 40 to 42 degrees above an imaginary line passing through the observer's head.[4]
  • Rainbows become larger the closer the sun is to the horizon.[4]
  • A parhelion, or sun dog, is similar to a rainbow but is caused by sunlight refracting through the ice crystals in clouds.[7]
  • Parhelion Rainbow
    While it isn't as colorful as a rainbow, a sun dog has its own splendor

  • If a person has a high enough vantage point, such as on top of a mountain or from an aircraft, they may be able to observe a rainbow as a full circle.[4]
  • "Moonbows" are faintly-colored rainbows that are created by the passing of the moon's light through water droplets.[4]
  • The legend about leprechauns hiding pots of gold at the end of rainbows might have begun because rainbows don't ever touch the ground, so their "end" can never be found.[7]
  • Why are there so many songs about rainbows, and what's on the other side? Rainbows are visions, they're only illusions, and rainbows have nothing to hide.

    - "Rainbow Connection" The Muppet Movie

  • Laser laboratories have succeeded in creating two-hundred-order rainbows—rainbows created by light that has been reflected 200 times in a single water drop before passing on.[4]
  • Perhaps the most famous occurrence of rainbows in mythology is when the God of the Old Testament puts the rainbow in the sky as a way of assuring Noah that He will never flood the entire earth again.[3][9]
  • Secondary rainbows, in which the normal order of colors is reversed, can occur when light rays are reflected twice within each water droplet.[4]
  • Rainbow Colors Facts
    The colors actually range across the whole visible spectrum
  • Although humans perceive a rainbow to be divided into distinct bands of color, black-and-white photographs reveal that rainbows are actually one continuous spectrum of colors shading into each other.[4]
  • In Irish lore, a rainbow marks the spot where a leprechaun has buried its stolen pot of gold.[9]
  • A 14th-century German monk, Theodoric of Freiburg, first explained the scientific cause of rainbows in 1304.[1]
  • In some Aboriginal myths, the rainbow is a giant snake who comes to stop rain that was sent by enemies of the tribe.[9]
  • A serpent representing a rainbow was found in 10,000-year-old Australian rock art.[9]
  • The ancient Greeks and Romans believed that rainbows were the messenger goddess Iris in her visible form.[9]
  • In Buddhism, the rainbow is sometimes used to represent the state one reaches just before achieving Nirvana.[9]
  • The mnemonic device "Roy G Biv" helps children to memorize the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Blue and indigo are so close, however, that few people can distinguish them.[8]
  • In Norse myth, a burning rainbow called the Bifrost connected Asgard to the realm of humans.[9]
  • Triple Rainbow
    You have to get pretty lucky to spot a trio like this
  • In addition to single rainbows, they can appear in doubles, triples, and even quadruples.[6]
  • The ancient Chinese believed that rainbows were cracks resulting from a goddess throwing stones into the sky.[9]
  • According to Bulgarian lore, a person who walks directly under a rainbow will experience a change of gender.[9]
  • In some Meso-American cultures, rainbows are such bad omens that children are sent into hiding when one appears.[9]
  • The rainbow was first used as a symbol of the gay movement when a drag queen displayed a rainbow flag in 1978.[9]
  • In addition to the Judy Garland version, the Oscar-winning song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" has been covered by Ariana Grande, Willie Nelson, the cast of Glee, and Eva Cassidy—to name a few. Perhaps the most popular version was performed on the ukulele by Hawaiian Israel Kamakawio'ole.[5]
  • Fun Rainbow INFOGRAPHIC
    Rainbows Infographic Thumbnail

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