Rainbows as Cones of Colour

$0.00

This is one of a set of almost 40 diagrams exploring Rainbows.


Each diagram appears on a separate page and is supported by a full explanation.

  • Follow the links embedded in the text for definitions of all the key terms.
  • For quick reference don’t miss the summaries of key terms further down each page.

Description

Rainbows as Cones of Colour

TRY SOME QUICK QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS TO GET STARTED
Rainbow colours are spectral colours. Every rainbow colour is produced by a single wavelength of light.
Rainbows are less common around midday because the higher the Sun is in the sky the lower the rainbow. If the Sun is too high, then by the time raindrops are in the right position to form a rainbow they are lost in the landscape.
Yes! Each colour in a rainbow between red and violet is a spectral colour.

About the diagram

Overview of rainbows

An atmospheric rainbow is an arc or circle of spectral colours and appears in the sky when an observer is in the presence of strong sunshine and rain.

  • Atmospheric rainbows:
    • Are caused by sunlight reflecting, refracting and dispersing inside raindrops before being seen by an observer.
    • Appear in the section of the sky directly opposite the Sun from the point of view of an observer.
    • Become visible when millions of raindrops reproduce the same optical effects.
  • Atmospheric rainbows often appear as a shower of rain is approaching, or has just passed over. The falling raindrops form a curtain on which sunlight falls.
  • To see an atmospheric rainbow, the rain must be in front of the observer and the Sun must be in the opposite direction, at their back.
  • A rainbow can form a complete circle when seen from a plane, but from the ground, an observer usually sees the upper half of the circle with the sky as a backdrop.
  • Rainbows are curved because light is reflected, refracted and dispersed symmetrically around their centre-point.
  • The centre-point of a rainbow is sometimes called the anti-solar point. ‘Anti’, because it is opposite the Sun with respect to the observer.
  • An imaginary straight line can always be drawn that passes through the Sun, the eyes of an observer and the anti-solar point – the geometric centre of a rainbow.
  • A section of a rainbow can easily disappear if anything gets in the way and forms a shadow. Hills, trees, buildings and even the shadow of an observer can cause a portion of a rainbow to vanish.
  • Not all rainbows are ‘atmospheric’. They can be produced by waterfalls, lawn sprinklers and anything else that creates a fine spray of water droplets in the right conditions.
Thinking of rainbows as cones of colour

Rainbows can be modelled as a set of six nested cones with the apex of each aligned with the lenses of an observer’s eyes.

  • Each cone has a different radius and each is composed of a narrow spread of wavelengths of light that determines its apparent colour. Red fills the cone with the largest radius and violet fills the smallest.
  • The cones do not have a simple 2D base. At their nearest, droplets may be within reach of an observer. At the other extreme, distant raindrops also refract and reflect light back towards an observer.
  • Modelling a rainbow as a cone that shows depth, as well as height and width, demonstrates that all the raindrops contained within one of the cones at any moment can contribute to the visual experience of an observer regardless of how far they are away.
  • Whilst modelling rainbows as discs corresponds with what an observer sees, the idea that rainbows are formed from cones of colour corresponds with a diagram showing a side elevation with the Sun, observer and rainbow arranged along the rainbow’s axis.

 

Some key terms

No posts found.

A rainbow is an optical effect produced by illuminated droplets of water. Rainbows are caused by reflection, refraction and dispersion of light in individual droplets and results in the appearance of an arc of spectral colours.

  • Rainbows only appear when weather conditions are ideal and an observer is in the right place at the right time.
  • Waterfalls, lawn sprinklers and other things that produce water droplets can produce a rainbow.
  • A rainbow is formed from millions of individual droplets each of which reflects and refracts a tiny coloured image of the sun towards the observer.
  • It is the dispersion of light as refraction takes place that produces the rainbow colours seen by an observer.
  • When the sun is behind an observer then the rainbow will appear in front of them.

A human observer is a person who engages in observation by watching things.

Rainbows are at their best early morning and late afternoon when a shower has just passed over and the Sun is illuminating the curtain of raindrops formed on the trailing edge of the falling rain.

  • A light source is a natural or man-made object that emits one or more wavelengths of light.
  • Natural light sources include:
    • The Sun is the most important natural light source in our lives and emits every wavelength of light in the visible spectrum.
    • Celestial sources of light include other stars, comets and meteors.
    • Other natural sources of light include lightning, volcanoes and forest fires.
  • There are also bio-luminescent light sources including some species of fish and insects as well as types of bacteria and algae.
  • Man-made light sources include:
    • Man-made light sources of the most simple type include natural tars and resins, wax candles, lamps that burn oil, fats or paraffin and gas lamps
    • Tungsten lights: These are a type of incandescent source which means they radiate light when electricity is used to heat a filament inside a glass bulb.
    • Halogen bulbs: These are more efficient and long-lasting versions of incandescent tungsten lamps and produce a very uniform bright light throughout the bulb’s lifetime.
    • Fluorescent lights: These are non-incandescent sources of light. They generally work by passing electricity through a glass tube of gas such as mercury, neon, argon or xenon instead of a filament. Fluorescent lamps are very efficient at emitting visible light, produce less waste heat, and typically last much longer than incandescent lamps.
    • LED lights: An LED (Light Emitting Diode) is an electroluminescent light source. It produces light by passing an electrical charge across the junction of a semiconductor. An LED light typically emits a single colour of light which is composed of a very narrow range of wavelengths.
  • Made-made lights can emit a single wavelength, bands of wavelengths or combinations of wavelengths.

Rainbow colours are the bands of colour seen in rainbows and in other situations where visible light separates into its component wavelengths and the spectral colours corresponding with each wavelength become visible to the human eye.

  • The rainbow colours (ROYGBV) in order of wavelength are red (longest wavelength), orange, yellow, green, blue and violet (shortest wavelength).
  • The human eye, and so human perception, is tuned to the visible spectrum and so to spectral colours between red and violet. It is the sensitivity of the eye to this small part of the electromagnetic spectrum that results in the perception of colour.
  • Defining rainbow colours is a question more closely related to the relationship between perception and language than to anything to do with physics or scientific accuracy.
  • Even the commonplace colours associated with the rainbow defy easy definition. They are concepts we generally agree on, but are not strictly defined by anything in the nature of light itself.
  • Whilst the visible spectrum and spectral colour are both determined by wavelength and frequency it is our eyes and brains that interpret these and create our perceptions after a lot of processing.

On a sunny day, stand with the Sun on your back and look at the ground, the shadow of your head coincides with the antisolar point.

  • The anti-solar point is the position on the rainbow axis around which the arcs of a rainbow appear.
  • An imaginary straight line can always be drawn that passes through the Sun, the eyes of an observer and the anti-solar point – the geometric centre of a rainbow.
  • The idea that a rainbow has a centre corresponds with what an observer sees in real-life.
  • As seen in side elevation, the centre-point of a rainbow is called the anti-solar point.
  • ‘Anti’, because it is opposite the Sun with respect to the location of an observer.
  • Unless seen from the air, the anti-solar point is always below the horizon.
  • The centre of a secondary rainbow is always on the same axis as the primary bow and shares the same anti-solar point.
  • First, second, fifth and sixth-order bows all share the same anti-solar point.

Diagrams are free to download

Downloads: Slides or Illustrations


DOWNLOAD DIAGRAMS
  • SLIDES are optimized for viewing on-screen.
  • ILLUSTRATIONS are optimized for printing on A4 pages in portrait format.
SLIDES
  • Slides are available in JPG and AI (Adobe Illustrator) file formats.
  • Titles: Slides have titles.
  • Backgrounds: Black.
  • Size: 1686 x 1124 pixels (3:2 aspect ratio).
ILLUSTRATIONS
  • Illustrations are available in JPG and AI two file formats.
  • Titles: No titles.
  • Backgrounds: White.
  • Size: 1686 x 1124 (3:2 aspect ratio). So all illustrations reproduce at the same scale when inserted into Word documents etc.
  • Labels: Calibri 24pt Italic.

File formats: JPG & AI


DOWNLOAD THE DIAGRAM ON THIS PAGE AS A JPG FILE
  • JPG (JPEG) diagrams are 1686 x 1124 pixels (3:2 aspect ratio).
  • If a JPG diagram doesn’t fit your needs, you can download it as an AI (Adobe Illustrator) file and edit it yourself.
  • JPG files can be placed or pasted directly into MS Office documents.
DOWNLOAD THE DIAGRAM ON THIS PAGE AS AN AI file
  • All AI (Adobe Illustrator) diagrams are 1686 x 1124 pixels (3:2 aspect ratio).
  • All our diagrams are created in Adobe Illustrator as vector drawings.
  • Save as or export AI files to other formats including PDF (.pdf), PNG (.png), JPG (.jpeg) and SVG(.svg) etc.

Spelling: UK & US


We use English (UK) spelling by default here at lightcolourvision.org.

COPY & PASTING TEXT
  • After copy/pasting text please do a spell-check to change our spelling to match your own document.
DOWNLOAD DIAGRAMS
  • Download AI versions of diagrams to change the spelling or language used for titles, labels etc.
  • We are adding American English (US) versions of diagrams on request. Just contact us and let us know what you need.
  • When downloading JPG versions of diagrams, look out for JPG (UK) or JPG (US) in the download dialogue box.

Download agreement


DOWNLOAD AGREEMENT

Light, Colour, Vision & How To See More (https://lightcolourvision.org) : Copyright © 2015-2022 : MediaStudies Trust.

Unless stated otherwise the author of all images and written content on lightcolourvision.org is Ric Mann.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

No part of this website may be copied, displayed, extracted, reproduced, utilised, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical or otherwise including but not limited to photocopying, recording, or scanning without the prior written permission of MediaStudies Trust.

EXCEPTIONS

Exceptions to the above statement are made for personal, educational and non-profit purposes:

Before downloading, cutting and pasting or reproducing any information, images or other assets found on lightcolourvision.org we ask you to agree to the following terms:

  1. All information, images and other assets displayed and made available for download on the lightcolourvision.org website are copyright. This means there are limitations on how they can be used.
  2. All information, images and other assets displayed or made available for download are solely and exclusively to be used for personal, educational and non-profit purposes.
  3. When you find the resources you need, then part of the download process involves you (the user) ticking a box to let us (at lightcolourvision.org) know we both agree on how the material can be used.
  4. Please contact kiaora.lightcolourvision@gmail.com before considering any use not covered by the terms of the agreement above.

The copyright to all information, images and all other assets (unless otherwise stated) belongs to:

The Trustees. MediaStudies Trust
111 Lynbrooke Avenue
Blockhouse Bay
Auckland 0600
New Zealand
kiaora.lightcolourvision@gmail.com

We love feedback

Your name and email address will be used solely to provide you with information you have specifically requested. See our privacy policy at https://lightcolourvision.org/privacy/.


We welcome your feedback 🙂









    Note: The feedback form records the URL of the current page


    Thank you so much for your time and effort