back to top


... and their less famous but equally awesome cousins.

Posted on

Radical refraction


Strictly defined, a rainbow is a band of colors formed by the reflection and refraction of the sun’s rays inside raindrops. While their colors include red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet, they are also made up of an infinite range of hues that the human eye cannot see.

The color of order (and order of color)

Wikimedia Commons

The pattern of light is always the same in a primary rainbow because each color is reflected at its own particular wavelength. In a primary rainbow, the colors will be in the order of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. This is a supernumerary rainbow, an infrequent phenomenon that happens when faint rainbows are seen within the inner ring of a primary rainbow. Experts say that geometric optics does not fully explain the existence of supernumerary rainbows, which are likely created due to the varying wave nature of light.

Angus MacRae Flickr/Creative Commons

Everyone sees their own individual rainbow according to their particular angle, light, and how their eyes interpret color. Double, or secondary, rainbows form when a beam of light is refracted twice.

What's better than a double rainbow? SIX RAINBOWS!

NASA/Terje O. Nordvik

Pictured here are multiple rainbows photographed in Norway on Sept. 12, 2007. The third rainbow (the one in between the primary and secondary ones) was caused by sunlight that had first reflected off the lake, according to NASA. If you look into the lake itself, you'll see three more reflections of rainbows. So. Many. Rainbows.

What's at the end of a rainbow? More rainbow!

NASA/Raquel Yumi Shida

A rainbow gets its traditional semicircle shape from the horizon, which makes it seem as if it is half a circle. So when the same atmospheric conditions that create a rainbow are observed from an airplane, a rainbow can appear to be a full circle. This is aptly named a *glory.*

When rainbows turn creepy...

Wikimedia Commons

Monochrome rainbows happen at sunrise or sunset, when the shorter blue and green wavelengths are scattered out before they reach the water droplets. Hence, the human eye sees only red. This unenhanced image was taken on July 6, 1980, just outside of Minneapolis, Minn.

Trippy triple sunrise

NASA/Jim Hoida

These weird apparitions are actually more common than rainbows. The two images on the right and left of the central sunrise are sundogs, which are extra-images of the sun created by falling ice crystals in the atmosphere.

Marvelous Moonbow


Also known as a lunar rainbow, moonbows are possible because of the light of the moon instead of the sun. They usually look white to the human eye because the moon's light isn't as strong as the sun's, but long exposure photos like this one can capture the pretty colors.

This post was created by a member of BuzzFeed Community, where anyone can post awesome lists and creations. Learn more or post your buzz!