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Under the Rainbow
Rainbows are beautiful natural phenomena created by millions of raindrops.
Light from the sun enters the raindrop and is refracted and reflected off the back of the raindrop into our eyes.
One special angle shows only one color to the observer.
The wavelength makes the difference. It reflects at different angles.
For the human eye sunlight contains the colors red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.
The technical term is 'visible light spectrum'.
When the sunlight, that we see in the color white, passes from the air into the drop of water, the component colors of light slow down to different speeds depending on their frequency.
When one sees a blue light, the sunshine is reflected by about 40 degrees.
Close to 41 degrees the yellow can be seen.
When one sees a red color, the sunshine is reflected by about 42 degrees.
A little bit more than 42 degrees and the color changes to violet.
If one could see ultra violet, the rainbow would show this color too.
Imagine your position is above the rain.|
What would you see?
A rainbow as a full circle, because the light would bounce back from all around you.
This "bending" of light is called refraction.
But "bending" is not quite accurate. When light travels trough different media it changes directions.
Imagine swimming = moving through a pool with clean water.
Now imagine swimming through a swamp.
Would you agree that the moving speed is different?
Additionally think about - you are still in the swamp - one arm digs into heavy mud, the other hits clean water.
Your pathway would change its angle.
The swamp medium has just more resistance. It needs more energy.
A glass prism can create a rainbow by the same principle, it separates white light into its component colors.
Light shines into a glass prism and one side of the light wave slows down before the other.
Glass gives more resistance than air. The wave of light turns at the boundary between the air and the glass. A few waves are reflected, but most passes through. The light has to turns when it exits the prism, because one side of it speeds up before the other.
Different colors of light have different frequencies or wavelengths, which causes them to travel at different speeds when they move through different matter.
A color that travels more slowly in glass will change direction more sharply when it passes from air to glass, because the speed difference is more severe.
A color = wavelength that can move more quickly in glass is not slowed down as much, so its direction will change less sharply.
Colors that make up white light are separated according to frequency when they pass through glass. The glass prism changes the direction of the light twice. The different colors of our sunlight are seen. The technical term is dispersion.
Sometimes, there are double rainbows, not always, but it happens. The second rainbow is produced in the same way as the main rainbow, but instead of the light reflecting once inside the raindrop, it's reflected twice.
A double reflection causes the light tp exit the raindrop at a different angle. And because of the different angle the colors in the upper rainbow are in reverse of the primary rainbow.
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