Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Night Rainbow

While I'm on the topic of special rainbows...

I've been meaning to tell this true tale: Hug & T & I were blessed to see the amazing & rare phenomenon of a Night Rainbow recently! This isn't my photo - we didn't get any photo's of it :( but... it was SO COOL!

We were driving at night. It was about 7.30pm & the sun had set about 2 hours earlier & it was a dark night because there was quite a bit of cloud around. A really light drizzle of rain was falling. Lovely was asleep & Hug was quietly awake in the back of the car. All of a sudden T whispered to me "There's a rainbow!" & then before I could respond Hug called out "I see a rainbow!" & lo and behold - there was a rainbow in the sky to the right of us!

It was made of white light with a rainbow glow, almost like petrol, through it just like in the steam I photographed. And it was a low & full arc.

It took us a few moments of disbelief before I realised that the golden ball of the rising full moon low on the left side of the road, which had just emerged from the clouds, had created it! A minute later the moon disappeared again & it was gone.

Although we knew what we had seen we had never heard of it before. There isn't much information, even with Google, & very few good images (there are a couple of images if you google but they mostly look like they were taken in the day - What's with that? This was definitely the dark of night) but it can be scientifically explained, as it was here:

The moon is the key, just as sunlight produces rainbows during the day, moonlight can produce rainbows at night. This is a lunar rainbow or 'moonbow'.

Moonbows are rare because moonlight is not very bright. A bright moon near to full is needed, it must be raining opposite the moon, the sky must be dark and the moon must be less than 42ยบ high. Put all these together and you do not get to see a moonbow very often! To the unaided eye they usually appear, as in the small image, without colour because their light is not bright enough to activate the cone colour receptors in our eyes. Nonetheless colours have been reported and might be seen when the moon is bright.

Ahhh, what a wonderful gift. The world sure is full of wonder & magic, especially that best type of magic which is created by nature itself :)

{* photo credit}


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