How Can Rainbows Exist? The Rainbow Process

The process of the rainbow – A natural phenomenon that usually occurs when after the rain has stopped, the rainbow can be categorized as one of the most beautiful natural wonders. The beauty lies in the colors that are displayed in bright and varied colors. The rainbow is one of the moments that is quite iconic when we see it directly with the naked eye because this natural phenomenon cannot take place every day and doesn’t even always appear after the rain stops.

Rainbows are usually present when there is refraction of light emitted through sunlight in direct contact with gas, water, and light molecules at the same time. Therefore, not every day we can see the rainbow phenomenon in our daily lives because it turns out that there are several other natural factors that participate in the process of rainbow occurrence.

For some people, they may just enjoy the rainbow when they see it, but rarely know the triggering factors and the process of rainbow occurrence. Then, what are the trigger factors for the rainbow? How does the rainbow process occur? You can find the answer below. However, it’s good for us to learn together about the meaning of the rainbow first.

Meaning of Rainbow

A rainbow is a rare weather event caused by the reflection, refraction and bending of light in water droplets that create a spectrum of light in the sky. Rainbows often form an arc of colored circles. Rainbows caused by sunlight are always present in the gaps in the sky that meet directly with the sun.

A rainbow can be a perfect circle. But unfortunately, people who saw would generally only see the arc created by the grains of light on the ground, and focus on the straight line from the sun to the eyes of the people who were looking.

In the main rainbow, the bows are red on the outside and purple on the inside. This rainbow is caused by light that is refracted when it enters the drop, then is reflected to the back of the drop and is refracted when it exits.

In a twin rainbow, the second ray is visible outside the primary ray, and the order of the colors is reversed, with red on the inside. This is because light is reflected twice inside the drop before leaving it.

Rainbow Form

Rainbows are not necessarily at a certain distance from the viewing public, but are caused by an optical illusion effected by water droplets looking at a certain angle to a light source. So, the rainbow is not an object and is inaccessible in its gross form.

This is because one cannot see a rainbow at any angle other than 2 degrees away from the light source.

Furthermore, if one observer looks at another observer who appears “below” or “at the corner” of the rainbow, the other observer will only see a different, farther rainbow from the same angle as the first observer.

A rainbow has a continuous range of colors. However, all the bands are not always the same as they appear in the human color vision illusion, and no bands of any kind are visible in a black and white image of a rainbow. In other words, just subtle gradations with intense degrees to optimal, then thinning to other angles.

As for the color combinations seen by the human eye, the most frequently cited and remembered sequences are the seven mentioned by Isaac Newton: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and purple, when repeated with an acronym, it becomes mejikuhibiniu.

Rainbows can be created due to the various forms of water molecules in the air. This situation includes not only rain, but also fog, condensation processes, and air evaporation.

Rainbow Time

The time a rainbow occurs is usually when there are water droplets in the air and the sunlight is behind the observer at high and low angles. For this reason, a rainbow is often seen in the western sky at dawn and in the eastern sky at dusk.

The most extraordinary rainbows occur when part of the sky is still dark with clouds during rain and the observer is in a position with the sky brightly lit towards the sun. The result is a bright rainbow that stands out against a dark background.

Under conditions of good visibility, a spare rainbow that is more gigantic in size but weaker when observed. Backup rainbows occur about 10 degrees from the boundary of the main rainbow and are in reverse color order.

The effects of rainbows are also often seen near waterfalls or fountains or the effect, can be created artificially by dispersing water droplets in the air on a sunny day. Although rare, rainbows, or moonlight rainbows at night, can be seen on moonlit nights. Due to human’s poorer color perception in low light, moon signs are usually white.

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Main Trigger Factors for the Appearance of Rainbows

The main trigger factor for the occurrence of a rainbow is the position of the sun must be right on the horizon. Sunlight should not be blocked by clouds, mountains or anything else. Then, the position of the sun must also be slightly lower. If we are in the same position as the horizon, then the sun must be at an angle of 2 degrees to be able to see the rainbow from where we are.

In addition, you must remember that a rainbow always appears in the part of the sky that faces the sun. So when you see a rainbow, the sun will be behind you. Then, the air on the other side of the sky from you must contain lots of water droplets, for example after rain.

Rainbows don’t just appear after rain, but can form as long as they meet the requirements. For example, throwing water into the air at a waterfall or on a beach near a cliff and at this location you can see a rainbow.

Another trigger factor is refraction. Rainbows that occur due to refraction are caused by the sun refracting its light on water droplets, thus creating a very amazing color combination. When refraction occurs, light will travel from air to water.

In each combination the rainbow colors will be bent in different parts, finally reflecting the amazing rainbow colors. The first color to appear to fold is purple, while the last color to fold is red.

Therefore, the rainbow will show beautiful colors, namely red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and purple. As many people know that rainbows are most often seen when sunlight falls on raindrops.

In general, this rare phenomenon occurs in the morning or evening. When the sun is too far from the horizon, the rainbow is not visible. However, when the sun is lower in the sky, part of its arc will be visible. When the sun is low enough and at a high enough position, such as on a mountain or hill, a rainbow will appear circular

The Rainbow Process

Rainbow is a rare natural event and is an optical process. The process of forming the sun has 3 stages, namely reflection or reflection, scattering or dispersion, and refraction.

Reflection or Reflection

The first process is reflection. Water droplets in the air can act as tiny mirrors. When sunlight hits water droplets, most of the light is reflected back. When it rains, the air contains many water droplets that form curtains, and each of these tiny water droplets will reflect the shining sunlight. However, you must be wondering. Sunlight is white, why is the rainbow colored? The answer to this question concerns the second process, namely dispersion.

Scattering or Dispersion

Light scattering is the phenomenon of light dissolving. Sunlight looks white, but when sunlight hits and is reflected by water droplets, the light will be scattered and expanded to produce rainbow colors.

Refraction of light

The third process is light refraction. When sunlight enters water droplets and reflects in a slightly different direction, it is called light refraction. Each color will be refracted in a different direction. The difference in the direction of this light is affected by each wavelength of each light.

Because that’s what causes the rainbow light to spread and widen like a fan. Red light has the longest wavelength, which is 650 nanometers. Red will appear as the outermost color of the rainbow arc. Meanwhile, purple has the shortest wavelength, which is 00 nanometers.

Why is a rainbow synonymous with beautiful color combinations?
“If the sunlight is clear, why is the rainbow colored?” Such a question may be in the minds of some people.

The occurrence of beautiful color combinations in a rainbow is because this is related to the dispersion process, especially the phenomenon of light dissolution. Sunlight looks white, but when sunlight hits or is reflected by water droplets, the light will be scattered and expanded, resulting in beautiful colors or better known to us as a rainbow.

During refraction, sunlight passes through water droplets and is reflected in a slightly different direction. This is called light refraction. Each color will generally experience refraction in a different direction. The difference in the direction of light is affected by the wavelength of each light.

This rainbow light wave will usually expand to form a fan. The red color in the rainbow is estimated to have a wavelength of light of 650 nanometers. While the purple color is estimated to have a wavelength of about 00 nanometers.

Why Do Color Combinations Occur in a Rainbow?

Why do rainbow colors look so good? The colors of the rainbow are beautiful due to the mixing of light refraction. In addition, there is reflection of sunlight from water droplets in the atmosphere. The angle of the light rays that reach the eye from the point of contact with the fall must be within a certain distance and the correct distance, so that the rainbow can have various color combinations.

The variations in rainbow colors are caused by the refraction of “white light” from the sun as it enters the droplets. Then, sunlight has a pool of all the colors that blend out of the visible spectrum, which are actually white in their natural form.

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The best time to find a rainbow is right after the storm has passed. Indeed, during thunderstorms, clouds tend to block sunlight. However, when the storm ends, the water droplets that have not fallen to the earth when it rains will quickly evaporate. Of course, you also need the reflected light of the sun to see a rainbow. The sun should be behind you. If you can see your own shadow, a rainbow will appear towards that shadow.

Why is the shape of a rainbow like a half circle?

A rainbow is shaped like a semi-circle because we only see the curved light reflected from the water droplets. The center of the rainbow circle is called the antipolar point which is directly opposite the sun. The rainbow only looks like a half circle because the other half of the light hits the ground, so it looks like there’s no rainbow.

However, if you are on the top of a very high mountain or hill, you can see the sun in a perfect circle. For example while on a plane, or on the edge of a very high cliff.

Rainbow Types

Classic Rainbow

The classic rainbow is the rainbow we see most often. Rainbows are formed from internal refraction and reflection of light rays that enter the raindrops. The primary rainbow colors from the inside out include purple, blue, green, yellow, orange and red. The red band makes a 2 degree angle to the sun, while the other color bands make a smaller angle.

Rainbow Reserve

Meanwhile, another rainbow that looks less intense is the secondary rainbow or reserve rainbow. This type of rainbow is one of the few because it will only appear when the primary rainbow appears first.

The secondary rainbow will display colors that are dimmer than the primary rainbow and will display colors that are reversed from the primary rainbow. If you’ve ever seen two rainbows with different color intensities, it could be a type of secondary rainbow.

Moon Bow Rainbow

As the name implies, a moon arc rainbow will look like an arc that usually appears at night. The rainbow, also known as the lunar rainbow, is a rainbow that is much more difficult to find.

In order to appear, rainstorms usually have to occur during a full moon. When the storm has passed, Moonbows will be visible if the full moon’s brightness is not obscured by clouds.

Moon Rainbow

Rainbows are not only created by the sun but also by the moon. This type of rainbow is called a lunar rainbow. A rainbow only needs water droplets and a light source, such as a bright full moon. Light can be refracted by raindrops when they occur in sunlight.

Red Rainbow

Unlike other types of rainbow which have many colors, this type of red rainbow is mostly red. A red rainbow usually appears in the morning and at dusk in the evening. The thickness of Earth’s atmosphere filters out the blue, which then appears redder as the orange light droplets reflect and refract the water. The end result is a rainbow with a red end of the spectrum.

Sun Rainbow

This type of rainbow usually appears in winter and sunny weather. Solar rainbows are common when the sun shines through ice crystals high in the atmosphere. Solar rainbows often show reflections of light red on the inside and purple on the outside, followed by the other colors of the rainbow. If the concentration of ice crystals in the air thickens, then the rainbow-colored structures that appear also thicken.

Mist Bow Rainbow

The appearance of a foggy rainbow or fogbow is difficult to see when compared to other types of rainbows. Because, this kind of rainbow will only occur if some parameters are adjusted to create a fog arc rainbow. For example, the light source should be behind the viewer and grounded. In addition, the layer of fog behind the observer must also be very thin for sunlight to shine through the thick fog ahead.

Rainbow Waterfall

Waterfall rainbow or can be called cascading rainbow is a type of rainbow that we rarely see because it can only be seen above the waterfall. Waterfall rainbows are usually found when the mist from a waterfall mixes with air currents that have a constant atmospheric constant.


Seeing a rainbow is really fun especially when you see it in an unusual place. So, when was the last time you saw a rainbow? So a brief discussion of the phenomenon of how the rainbow process occurs. Hopefully all of this discussion can be useful for Sinaumed’s.

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Author: Pandu Akram

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