There are several particularly noticeable things to see when looking closely at rainbows:
- The arcs of spectral colours curving across the sky with red on the outside and violet on the inside, this is a primary rainbow. The arcs appear between the angles of approx. 40.7° and 42.4° from the centre (anti-solar point) as seen from the point of view of an observer.
- There may be another rainbow, just outside the primary bow with violet on the outside and red on the inside, this is the secondary rainbow. The arcs appear between the angles of approx. 50.4° and 53.4° from its centre as seen from the point of view of an observer.
- Faint supernumerary bows often appear just inside a primary rainbow and form shimmering arcs of purples and cyan-greens. These bands appear at an angle of approx. 39° to 40° from the centre so just inside the violet arc of the primary bow.
- The remaining area inside a rainbow from its centre out to approx. 39° often appears lighter or brighter in comparison to the sky outside the rainbow. There are three main causes:
- When a secondary rainbow appears, the area between the two often appears to be darker in tone than any other area of the sky. This is called Alexander’s band. The effect is the result of rays being deflected away from this area as primary and secondary bows form.