We see rainbows when light reflects off water droplets in the air. Come learn about the colors of the rainbow, why they usually appear in the same order and some other cool facts about these colorful bands of light.
What Are Rainbows?
If you’ve ever looked up into the sky when the sun comes out just after a rainstorm, you’ve probably seen a rainbow.
But you may never have thought much about why those colors appear in the sky and why they are in a certain order.Rainbows are curved, colorful lines of light that appear when light shines through water droplets in the air.This usually happens when the sun comes out after a rainstorm, but they can be seen anywhere that water droplets are in the air, like near waterfalls or where there is fog.
Though there are different kinds of rainbows, the ones we most commonly see are primary rainbows.
What Color Is Light?
When you look at light, it looks white.
But that white light is really made up of all different colors of light mixed together, like it went through a blender.Your eyes can’t see all those separate colors until they are reflected by something. In a rainbow, water droplets bend light and then reflect it so the different colors in that white light become visible.
When light travels through a water droplet, it refracts, or bends the light at different angles, the way you can bend your elbow a little or a lot.Like water, light travels in waves.
But different colors of light have different wavelengths, which is the distance between the tops of their waves, and therefore bend at different angles in a water droplet. How much light bends depends on how long its wavelength is. This bending of the light lets you see all the separate colors of light reflected by the water droplets, which creates a rainbow.
Roy G Biv
The colors in a primary rainbow appear in a certain order. Red light has the longest wavelength, so you see it as the outside curve of the rainbow.
Violet, which is a purple color, has the shortest wavelength, so you see it on the inside curve. The other colors have wavelengths that fall between red and violet, so you see them in the middle of a rainbow.An easy way to remember the order of colors in a rainbow is to think of the name ROY G BIV:R – redO – orangeY – yellowG – greenB – blueI – indigo (blueish-purple)V – violet
You might notice that these colors are reversed if you are lucky enough to see a double rainbow. The second rainbow, which appears above the primary rainbow, is caused by the light being reflected twice inside the water droplet.
This causes the colors to flip, the way words are backwards if you hold them up to a mirror and try to read them in the reflection.
Rainbows are curved, colorful lines that appear when light is refracted, or bent, and reflected through water droplets in the air. Although light looks white, it is made up of many different colors that have different wavelengths. How much light bends depends on its wavelength, which is why primary rainbow colors appear in the order of ROY G BIV.