Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sunset Rainbow

A couple of years ago, when we first moved to the foothills, I often ventured outside to see if I could photograph the crazy light that shone on the trees at sunset. On one particular evening there was a rainbow in the sunset-colored sky, so I photographed that as well. As I have been learning about the sky and light and atmospheric optics, I have discovered that rainbows at sunset are actually somewhat rare occurrences. I just love learning about the sky. Les Cowley of Atmospheric Optics writes, "Sunset rainbows are unusual and can be unbelievably red as the sun's long path through the atmosphere results in nearly all the blues and greens being scattered away before the light reaches the raindrops."
He also wrote, "whenever there is something noteworthy in the sky it is good policy to check the opposite direction - Nature's wonders can come in pairs."

So, next time I'm definitely looking west!


  1. "... whenever there is something noteworthy in the sky it is good policy to check the opposite direction ..."

    Thank you for the wonderful photos and lesson about rainbows! That quote is a good philosophy for life (-:

    An example, dear to me, is when a gibbous moon and the sun are in the sky at the same time at sunrise or sunset:


    Because of the cloud cover in Northwest Washington, we don't often get to see that gibbous moon and sun pairing , but I have vivid and treasured memories of seeing that pairing at sunrise while driving to work in the early morning as a young woman in the SF Bay Area.

    Another sweet memory is that once, as the sun was setting out at Ecola Point State Park on the coast in Northwest Oregon, I turned around and saw a brilliant crescent moon rising above the trees on the bluffs at Ecola Point State Park on the coast of Northwest Oregon.

  2. Great pictures and great commentary, Robin Andrea. I don't think I've ever seen a rainbow near sunset, so your post was really interesting and enlightening. Now, we need to figure out why the sky appears to show different levels of brightness above and below a rainbow.

  3. Beautiful! I have never seen a rainbow at sunset.

  4. I've never even considered this...I guess I must not have seen any at sunset. But I will record it (in my mind, at least!) if I do!

  5. I have never seen a rainbow at sunset! You are lucky to live in such a great place and have your eyes and camera at the ready.

  6. I love learning about the sky and clouds here and seeing displays of the treasures you find. Thanks!

  7. Wonderful capture. I have never seen one at sunset. Now you make me wonder how many things I have missed by not turning around. Next time I will.

  8. Very nice shots.

    Scott, when the viewing is right, you can actually see two rainbows in the sky. There will be a darker region between them called Alexander's dark band. That's a region where the water droplets are scattering light away from your line of sight because of the geometry of reflection and refraction in the drops.

  9. In winter, when I see Orion, I turn my back to him and see the Big Dipper.

    I *love* these atmospheric posts, and this one in particular is brightening a grim week. Thank you so much. More! More!