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Not Just Arcs In The Sky, Rainbows Are Actually Circular!

Picture: Google

Rainbows are spectacular sky phenomena that captivate the spectators with their magnificent and brilliant hues.

It’s like a reward to see a colorful arch across the serene sky after a stormy storm.


Picture: Nicole Cambre

But, do you know that rainbows are not actually arches? In fact, they’re actually full circles. Isn’t that shocking? For most of our whole life, we only often see circular rainbows, and rarely see full circles of rainbows.

So, why do we only see arches? While this might get you mind-blown, the main reason why we often see arches is that the rainbows are partly blocked by the horizon and the ground. In order for you to see the full circle of the rainbow, you will need to find a high vantage point.

How does a rainbow happen?

For your information, a number of factors, including the vantage point of the spectators, the angle of the sun, the presence of water droplets in the atmosphere, and the angle at which the white light passes into a water droplet and the same light exits from it, all play a significant role for the formation of rainbow.

The formation of the rainbow is based on the fundamental scientific principles of light reflection and refraction at various angles. The light strikes a water droplet at a specific angle when there’s air moisture present and shining sunlight. At this point, the white light’s visible spectrum colors bounce out of the droplet in accordance with the wavelengths’ rates of propagation. As a result, the formation of a rainbow is made up of many hues.


Picture: ScienceABC

How to see a full circle of a rainbow?

Depending on where you stand, a rainbow may or may not be visible. If you move, the rainbow follows as well. Interestingly, every single individual will have a unique perspective. The actual reason why we only see curved rainbows is the variety of angles at which raindrops reflect. Bear in mind, that you must be standing with the sun behind you and the sun must be low in the sky in order to see a rainbow properly. But, you won’t be able to see a rainbow if the sun is too high.

In addition to that, if you stand at ground level, the lower half of the circle won’t be visible to you. In fact, a rainbow is effectively visible from this vantage point if any part of its dips below the horizon.  One of the causes of this is that the Earth’s surface is so nearby, limiting the quantity and concentration of raindrops in your field of vision.

So, from here we can conclude that the only way to see a full rainbow is by flying high enough without any disturbance. Which is hard to do, isn’t it? Let’s just appreciate the beautiful arched rainbows that we always see.

Sources: ScienceABC, HowStuffWorks, kidadl

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