Reflected-Light Rainbow

September 03, 2002


Referred by: Michael Ellestad
Summary authors & editors: Jim Foster; Michael Ellestad

I was doing a water hose/rainbow experiment and happened to have my swimming pool behind me. I noticed that in addition to the primary bow, a distinct reflected-light bow was visible. The reflected-light rainbow is produced when light from the Sun reflects off a smooth body of water and into the sky at a higher angle than the light responsible for causing the primary rainbow. Essentially, the mirror-like reflection of sunlight from the pool interacted with water droplets from the garden hose to form the second rainbow - the one higher in the sky. It's possible to tell that this bow is a reflected bow and not a secondary rainbow since the color sequence is the same as that of the primary bow. When a double rainbow is seen, the fainter secondary bow, also above the primary bow, has its colors reversed. You may be able to make out a portion of the secondary bow on this photo between the primary and reflected-light rainbows.

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