The 360-degree Rainbow

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 14. huhtikuuta 2005 klo 20:18 (GMT)

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Most people don't realize it, but a rainbow is actually a full circle. You usually can't see the full circle, since half of the rainbow lies beneath the horizon, where it is not raining. After all, there is no weather underground. However, if one is in an airplane or overlooking a waterfall, the 360-degree rainbow can be seen. I know--I have seen them twice from research airplanes that were flying through rain showers. Check out the 360-degree rainbow image at the bottom. Note that there is a separate optical phenomena, called a glory (caused by diffraction), surrounding the shadow of the airplane. Unfortunately, I only had a 23mm wide angle lens, and could not capture the entire 360-degree rainbow. To my knowledge, no one has captured a photograph of a full NATURAL 360-degree rainbow. You can easily photograph one using a sprinkler, as this photographer has done here.

I challenge all you wunderphotographers to capture a 360-degree rainbow image in rain or waterfall mist. First photographer to post such a natural 360-degree rainbow image wins a free 2-year membership!

360-degree rainbow (JeffMasters)
A rainbow is not a half-circle, but a full circle, as this photo taken from NOAA's P-3 Orion weather reseach aircraft demonstrates. A rain shower beneath the aircraft allowed me to see the entire circle of the rainbow, although the 23-mm wide angle lens was not quite wide enough to capture the entire circle.
360-degree rainbow

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44. happykaren
17. maaliskuuta 2014 klo 21:27 (GMT)
I like how it is a circle rainbow...great capture

Printing Services
Member Since: 15.03.2014 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
43. leonrosk
12. syyskuuta 2013 klo 18:20 (GMT)
As a young merchant seaman many years ago, caught in a sudden tropical downpour in bright sunshine, I'd climbed the ladder to the next deck and looking behind me saw a double rainbow making a complete circle.

It was in the form of a slanted disc with the bottom of the disc at my feet and the top above the horizon (seemingly a long way away).

I realised that the angle of the disc was in a line with the sun behind me passing through my head to the illusion in front of me.

Since that time I know that I have to look for the rainbow with the sun behind me, and that latitude, and the height of the sun above the horizon, determines how high the top of the rainbow appears to be in the sky.
Member Since: 28.08.2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
42. snotly
10. syyskuuta 2013 klo 01:11 (GMT)
No weather under ground, then how come some caves here in MO are always 58 F and 100% humidity?
Member Since: 27.08.2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 682
41. Dakster
9. syyskuuta 2013 klo 13:46 (GMT)
So who won the photo of a 360 degree rainbow?
Member Since: 10.03.2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 9761
40. ChemPhysMath
9. syyskuuta 2013 klo 04:09 (GMT)
Ballad of a Thin Man . ..
Member Since: 11.08.2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 10
39. islander101010
25. elokuuta 2013 klo 23:11 (GMT)
spreading like poison ivey..favorable conditions throughout the basin
Member Since: 11.09.2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 4018
38. Kumo
25. elokuuta 2013 klo 22:22 (GMT)
You should totally get this guy to do commentary on a 360-degree rainbow.
Member Since: 3.08.2012 Posts: 15 Comments: 145
37. Bluestorm5
22. heinäkuuta 2013 klo 17:26 (GMT)
First blog ever, eh? Well, Bluestorm5 was here.
Member Since: 1.08.2011 Posts: 23 Comments: 7503
36. PensacolaDoug
15. helmikuuta 2013 klo 00:16 (GMT)
Doug was here. Killroy was not.
Member Since: 25.07.2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 519
35. trHUrrIXC5MMX
14. helmikuuta 2013 klo 22:43 (GMT)
well this is the first blog...

Max is here
Member Since: 23.04.2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14869
34. wxchaser97
23. marraskuuta 2012 klo 18:30 (GMT)
I had to see where it all started.

wxchaser97 was and is here...
Member Since: 16.03.2012 Posts: 123 Comments: 7890
33. MTWX
14. syyskuuta 2012 klo 19:55 (GMT)
Was reading back through the old Katrina Blogs, and figured I'd stop in to see where it all began....

MTWX was here...
Member Since: 20.07.2009 Posts: 23 Comments: 1391
32. TomTaylor
1. syyskuuta 2012 klo 07:13 (GMT)
Can we make this the new hangout spot?
Member Since: 24.08.2010 Posts: 19 Comments: 4357
31. MAweatherboy1
11. elokuuta 2012 klo 01:46 (GMT)
Wow, the first entry... 31 comments in 7 years.
Member Since: 11.02.2012 Posts: 79 Comments: 7302
30. TropicalAnalystwx13
11. elokuuta 2012 klo 01:20 (GMT)
Quoting CybrTeddy:
Oh this blog has no idea what it's in for..'ve got that right, LMAO.
Member Since: 6.07.2010 Posts: 109 Comments: 30283
29. TomTaylor
16. heinäkuuta 2012 klo 07:29 (GMT)
TomTaylor was here
Member Since: 24.08.2010 Posts: 19 Comments: 4357
28. WxGeekVA
17. toukokuuta 2012 klo 03:19 (GMT)
If only one knew where this blog would be now.... Thanks for the original entry Dr. M.
Member Since: 3.09.2011 Posts: 13 Comments: 3466
27. SomeChaz
17. helmikuuta 2010 klo 01:32 (GMT)
A different but also exciting phenomena is the "sundog"; in which rays refract through ice crystals. The differing index of refraction of solid water leads to a smaller radius rainbow even without clouds or rain present. Since the radius is tighter, one can often see the full circle. I saw one three days ago in Madison, WI, but I didn't have my camera. Here's an example:
26. CybrTeddy
30. kesäkuuta 2009 klo 01:42 (GMT)
Oh this blog has no idea what it's in for..
Member Since: 8.07.2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23015
25. cycloone
22. lokakuuta 2008 klo 20:48 (GMT)
Member Since: 2.03.2003 Posts: 65 Comments: 1009
29. heinäkuuta 2008 klo 20:29 (GMT)
Member Since: 15.07.2006 Posts: 165 Comments: 52353
23. OneDay
1. elokuuta 2006 klo 17:56 (GMT)
Just thought I'd drop a message on the "original."

Too cool.
Member Since: 13.07.2005 Posts: 35 Comments: 931
22. turtlehurricane
2. heinäkuuta 2006 klo 04:55 (GMT)
Flash to the past. Back to the future.
Member Since: 22.07.2005 Posts: 227 Comments: 469
21. Alec
22. kesäkuuta 2006 klo 04:38 (GMT)
hey im here!!!!!!!cooooooooool!!!!!!!!
20. atmosweather
22. kesäkuuta 2006 klo 04:34 (GMT)
Member Since: 24.09.2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
19. Levi32
22. kesäkuuta 2006 klo 04:33 (GMT)
Welcom to WU Dr. Master's! ROFL!!!
Member Since: 24.11.2005 Posts: 628 Comments: 26455
17. shaviator
1:46 PM GMT on April 25, 2005
I have seen the "glory" rainbow many times from my plane but have also heard it called "the aviator's halo".
16. Groundrush
4:30 PM GMT on April 23, 2005
I have seen these before, when I'm skydiving and I steer my parachute into a cloud. I wish I would have had a camera with me!
Member Since: 18.02.2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 1
15. Lemurian
8:09 PM PDT on April 22, 2005
Jeff says "After all, there is no weather underground." If this is true, then where are we??? LOL
Member Since: 20.08.2004 Posts: 20 Comments: 0
11:10 PM GMT on April 22, 2005
13. stuckindeleware
12:40 PM GMT on April 22, 2005
If a rainbow is a full circle...then WHERE'S THE POT OF GOLD???? I feel cheated.
Member Since: 22.04.2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
12. Aaron Cowdin , Lead Developer (Admin)
4:57 PM PDT on April 21, 2005
You can also create a link to an image by selecting the text you wish to link and clicking the link button above the comment text box. Like so.
9. phoebe5555
10:24 PM GMT on April 21, 2005
I wondered if you saw this photo from Albania. It struck me and then I read your blog and it reminded me of this photo.
This is the URL.
Member Since: 17.04.2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
8. WMMcLaughlin
8:59 PM GMT on April 21, 2005
Never seen a 360, but I have seen a double, at least once, in Scotland I think. Have seen glories as an airline passenger.

But, courtesy of Uncle Sam's Great Grey Ocean Liners, I have also seen the Green Flash of the Tropics and The Corposant once each. Was watching for the Green Flash, but the Corposant was a surprise, and a year and an ocean before seeing the Green Flash.
7. Dr. Jeff Masters , Director of Meteorology (Admin)
2:49 PM EDT on April 21, 2005
The 360 rainbow that circles the shadow of the airplane that ruffair refers to is a separate optical phenomena, called a glory, and is not a true rainbow. A glory is an optical diffraction effect consisting of concentric rings of color centered about the shadow of an observer's head, located on a cloud of water drops. You can see a glory surrounding the shadow of the airplane in my 360-degree rainbow photo. Also, check out this glory photo, taken from a mountaintop.
4. ruffair
3:39 PM GMT on April 21, 2005
I've seen the 360 rainbows many times. I always have a window seat in the front of the jet. One of the best is desending into cloud tops with the sun directly behind... in the water vapor that is the cloud top, you get a 360 rainbow that circles the shadow of the airplane... never have got the camara out in time...
Member Since: 5.11.2003 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
3. geckotoes
10:49 AM GMT on April 21, 2005
Thanks! I've seen this from an airplane, too, but was beginning to doubt my memory because no one I know has seen such a thing. This is gorgeous!
2. rmh9903
5:33 AM GMT on April 21, 2005
A rainbow is a true sight of beauty. Not only that but the have a sense of peace about them. Too bad they seem so limited in time.

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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