24 May 2011
Posted in WFTV Severe Weather Center 9
Have you ever wondered if it is possible to see a rainbow at night? After all, rainbows are generally made from sunlight shining through raindrops. Although seeing a rainbow at night may seem like an odd thing to contemplate, it is possible.
Night rainbows are incredibly rare and often difficult to see, but not impossible. If the moon is bright enough and the atmosphere offers the right conditions, night rainbows, also called moonbows or lunar rainbows, can occur.
Just like a normal rainbow, this phenomenon happens when light is split up into the different colors of the spectrum. When the light bounces off the back of a raindrop, it causes the colorful display of light to streak across the sky.
However, because moonlight is not nearly as bright as the sun, the moonbow appears much dimmer. Without much light for our eyes to take in, moonbows can appear muted and grayish or even ghostly white. Only a full moon, or nearly full moon can produce enough light to make a night rainbow. Even with enough light from a full moon, there still needs to be the right conditions to produce a rain-shower while still having enough breaks in the clouds to allow light through. If you ever get a chance to see one, be sure to take in the beauty the night has to offer and snap a photo.
Image courtesy of Starry Night Skies Photography