Spring Brings Rainbows

Here is how to find them and a pot of gold
Rainbow over Winterville, NC
Rainbow over Winterville, NC(Phillip Williams)
Published: May. 4, 2021 at 3:10 PM EDT|Updated: May. 4, 2021 at 3:13 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Rainbows are the beautiful signs a shower or storm is over and better weather lies ahead. Many sayings and myths have been attached to these bright and colorful arcs of light seen from time to time in the sky.

For treasure seekers, perhaps the most enticing tale about rainbows is the one about a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Believe me, if there were, I would be hunting for it a lot of my time, but alas, it is just a saying. Or is it? Have you ever been in a place where the sun was shining at the same time it was raining? If so, you were at the end of someone’s rainbow. Yes, you are the pot of gold!

Now, let’s talk science. You need two types of weather happening at the same time to produce a rainbow: rain and sunshine. Raindrops falling in the sky are generally round. When sunlight enters the round drop of water, different colors travel at different speeds through the water. Some of the light bounces off the curved back wall of the raindrop and comes out the front. As it does, the sunlight is separated by the speed with which the differing colors travel through the water droplet.

Red comes out on top followed by orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. When you see a bright rainbow this is the order of possible colors from top to bottom of the rainbow. In some cases, you will not see all of the colors because other particles in the air may scatter away some colors. For example, if there is smoke, dust, or other particles in the air, some of the colors may not be visible.

Have you ever seen 2 rainbows at the same time, one above the other one? The secondary rainbow will be above the primary rainbow and will not be as vivid. It is produced by rays of sunlight entering raindrops and bouncing not once, but twice inside the drop before coming out the front. The second bounce inside the curved raindrop causes the colors to turn upside down. So for a secondary rainbow, the violet is on the top and the red is on the bottom. Pretty neat, huh?

So, the next time you see a rainbow, look for a secondary rainbow. Also, notice if it is raining and the sun is out where you are. Remember, that makes you the pot of gold. Here is a trick to find a rainbow. Put your back toward the sun and look into the rain shower. If the sun shines into the Spring shower, it will make a rainbow for someone. Oh, every rainbow you see is uniquely your own. It is made by the exact angle of the sunlight to the raindrop to your eye. Enjoy seeing your colorful gift from Spring showers.

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