• Question: What causes a rainbow?

    Asked by andrealafuente to Ceri, Marikka, Matt, Rob on 19 Nov 2014.
    • Photo: Ceri Dare

      Ceri Dare answered on 19 Nov 2014:

      Light being bent by droplets of water like rain or clouds – it’s easier to explain with pictures, there are some good ones here: http://scijinks.jpl.nasa.gov/rainbow/

    • Photo: Marikka Beecroft

      Marikka Beecroft answered on 20 Nov 2014:

      Raindrops and light!

      Light is actually made up of many many colours and the raindrops acts like a prism. A prism is just something that can show you the colours of light.

      So when it rains and it’s sunny the light travels through the raindrop, the raindrop shows you the colours of light and you see it as a rainbow! So the rainbow is just the colours of light.

    • Photo: Robert Hampson

      Robert Hampson answered on 20 Nov 2014:

      Many adults don’t really understand how light and rain causes rainbows! Ask them where the sun and rain should be in relation to them if they can see a rainbow, most of them will get confused.

      There are two ways to see a rainbow. If you look through rain in front of you towards the sun their could be a rainbow. In this instance light from the sun hits raindrops and is reflected around them bending the light. Each colour of light interacts differently with the raindrop because they have different wavelengths. When the light emerges from the raindrops, you can see it as a rainbow.

      The second way to see a rainbow is if you look at rain with the sun behind you. Sometimes the light can be reflected around the raindrops and back at you again separating the different colours contained in white light into the rainbow which you can see!