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The Nature of Rainbows

The Nature of Rainbows

Credit: Marco Franchino
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/little_frank/389529610/
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Formed by reflection, rainbows can be seen anywhere light passes through a medium of spherical water droplets.

Amazing But True

Credit: Jesus Solana
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/65069067@N00/2090207379
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

The combination of water and sunlight creates rainbows [Figure2]

  • Process to create a rainbow as light passes through a medium of spherical water droplets:
  1. Light is initially refracted as it enters a raindrop
  2. Light is reflected off the back of the raindrop
  3. The original beam is one again refracted as it leaves the drop of water.
  • As a beam of light is refracted when it passes through the raindrop, it is refracted through different angles causing a splitting of the white light. This splitting is due to the difference in wavelength of the white light. As a result, shorter wavelength light (blue) is refracted at a greater angle than red light.
  • Rainbows can be seen anywhere water drops are present in the air and sunlight is able to shine through. An interesting fact about rainbows is that every rainbow you see is unique only you. Even if you had someone standing right next to you, the rainbow they see is a different rainbow than the one you are seeing.
  • Learn more about the color spectrum and rainbows: 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtgBHsSzCPE

Show What You’ve Learned

Using the information provided above, answer the following questions.

  1. What colors primarily make up white light?
  2. What color is not adsorbed by a red apple?
  3. If a material adsorbs all the colors of the visible light spectrum, what color is the material?

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Marco Franchino; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/little_frank/389529610/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: Jesus Solana; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/65069067@N00/2090207379; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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