Sun Observer & Rainbow Share Axis
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.
Sun, Observer & Bow Share Common Axis
TRY SOME QUICK QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS TO GET STARTED
About the Diagram
An overview of rainbows
- Atmospheric rainbows:
- 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.
About the diagram
The exact position at which an atmospheric rainbow will appear in the sky can be anticipated by imagining a straight line that starts at the centre of the Sun behind you, passes through the back of your head, out through your eyes and extends in a straight line into the distance.
- The imaginary line that joins the Sun, observer and the centre of the rainbow is called the rainbow axis.
- The point on the rainbow axis around which a rainbow appears is called the anti-solar point. The centre of a rainbow coincides with the anti-solar point.
- Stand with the Sun on your back and look at the ground on a sunny day, the shadow of your head marks the point called the antisolar point, it is 180° away from the Sun.
- The red arc of a primary bow forms at an angle of 42.40 from the rainbow axis.
- Seen from an observer’s point of view, the angle outwards from the rainbow axis to the coloured arcs is called the viewing angle.
- In diagrams, the same angle between the axis and a line extended from an observer’s eyes to the arcs of a rainbow is called the angular distance.
- With the Sun behind you, spread out your arms to either side or up and down to get a sense of where a rainbow should appear if the conditions are right.
- Unless seen from the air, the centre of a rainbow and the anti-solar point will always be 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.
- To see a secondary rainbow look for the primary bow first – it has red on the outside. The secondary bow will be a bit larger with violet on the outside at an angle of 53.40 and red on the inside.
Some Key Terms
Dispersion (or chromatic dispersion) refers to the way that light, under certain conditions, separates into its component wavelengths and the colours corresponding with each wavelength become visible to a human observer.
- Dispersion is the result of the relationship between refractive index and wavelength.
- Every wavelength of light is affected to a different degree by the refractive index of a medium. The result is that each wavelength changes direction and speed by a different amount.
- In the case of white light, the separate wavelengths span out with red at one end and violet at the other.
- A familiar example of dispersion is when white light strikes raindrops and a rainbow of colours becomes visible to an observer.
Specular reflection occurs when light waves reflect off a smooth surface such as a mirror. The arrangement of the waves remains the same and an image of objects that the light has already encountered become visible to an observer.
- As light travels from a fast medium such as air to a slow medium such as water it bends toward the normal and slows down.
- As light passes from a slow medium such as diamond to a faster medium such as glass it bends away from the normal and speeds up.
- In a diagram illustrating optical phenomena like refraction or reflection, the normal is a line drawn at right angles to the boundary between two media.
- A fast (optically rare) medium is one that obstructs light less than a slow medium.
- A slow (optically dense) medium is one that obstructs light more than a fast medium.
- The speed at which light travels through a given medium is expressed by its index of refraction.
- If we want to know in which direction light will bend at the boundary between transparent media we need to know:
- Which is the faster, less optically dense (rare) medium with a smaller refractive index?
- Which is the slower, more optically dense medium with the higher refractive index?
- The amount that refraction causes light to change direction, and its path to bend, is dealt with by Snell’s law.
- Snell’s law considers the relationship between the angle of incidence, the angle of refraction and the refractive indices (plural of index) of the media on both sides of the boundary. If three of the four variables are known, then Snell’s law can calculate the fourth.
- The Sun is the most important 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 of the most simple type include natural tars and resins, wax candles, lamps that burn oil, fats or paraffin and gas lamps.
- Modern man-made light sources include tungsten light sources. 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 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 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. These lamps are very efficient at emitting visible light, produce less waste heat, and typically last much longer than incandescent lamps.
- An LED (Light Emitting Diode) is an electroluminescent light source. It produces light by passing an electrical charge across the junction of a semiconductor.
- Made-made lights can emit a single wavelength, bands of wavelengths or combinations of wavelengths.
- An LED light typically emits a single colour of light which is composed of a very narrow range of wavelengths.
Diagrams are free to download
Downloads: Slides or Illustrations
- SLIDES are optimized for viewing on-screen.
- ILLUSTRATIONS are optimized for printing on A4 pages in portrait format.
- 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 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 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.
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 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Please contact [email protected] 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:
We love feedback
We welcome your feedback 🙂