Myths About Rainbows

Who doesn’t like rainbows? For those who happen to believe in God, it’s a reminder of the covenant He made with man that He will never again destroy the earth with water. To those who don’t believe in God, a rainbow is a multicolored arc made by light striking water droplets. Even the most rainbow-savvy person out there may not know that there are some myths associated with the rainbow. For example, there’s a belief that rainbows form perfect arcs. The reality is, true rainbows form full circles, but when we’re standing on the ground, we can only see light that’s reflected by raindrops above the horizon. That’s why we can’t normally see a rainbow’s lower, hidden half. If you’re in an airplane and able to see below the horizon, you might just be able to see a rainbow as a full circle. Another myth that’s been circulating for years is that rainbows contain seven colors. It’s likely that you learned in school that rainbows are red, orange, yellow, blue, indigo and violet. These are actually the colors of the visible spectrum. The truth is, rainbows contain upward of a million colors. Unfortunately, our human peepers can’t see all of those hues. A myth that you might not have considered is the one that says everyone sees the same rainbow. The fact is, no two people can see the exact same rainbow. It may appear that you’re seeing the same thing, but your horizon is always different. Since your eyes and those of someone else — even someone standing right next to you — can’t be in the same place in space simultaneously, the two of you can never see the same rainbow. Finally, you may believe that rainbows only appear with rain. That seems to make sense, especially since the word “rain” is part of the word “rainbow.” While there needs to be water droplets in the air for a rainbow to form, those droplets don’t have to be in the form of rain. The best example of a rainbow without rain is the rainbow that forms over waterfalls, such as Niagara Falls. Those rainbows are formed by the water droplets in the mist the falls generate. And just so you know, rainbows don’t only form during the day. Evening rainbows are called moonbows and are created when light reflected by the moon hits water droplets in the air. Now that you know most of what’s known about rainbows, maybe the next time you see one, you’ll look at it differently.