Above: Image © Klafubra, Wikimedia Commons

Question

How do rainbows form?

Answer

Rainbows happen when the "white" light from the sun is broken up into light of different colors. Usually this happens when this light goes through tiny droplets of water suspended in the air that act like lenses. Do you know how light bounces off a mirror? And how it changes paths when it goes through a glass of water? (if you don't, try it!) The same things happen when light goes through a water droplet in the air. When a ray of light enters a water droplet, it 'bends' or changes the direction that it's heading, then instead of exiting on the other side of the droplet it bounces back like a mirror, and finally just before exiting it 'bends' or changes directions again. All this twisting and turning redirects the light from the sun. What is really interesting is that light of different colors doesn't bend by the same amount when it enters and exits the water droplet. The light from the sun is made up of light of all different colors mixed together, and all these different colored light rays get bent in different ways inside the water droplets so they end up separated, which makes you see a rainbow.

Answered By: Isabel

CurioCity

This is content has that been provided for use on the CurioCity website.


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