Unusual Rainbow Spotted in Eastern Kentucky
We've seen them all our lives, but does anyone NOT take notice and make a comment when they see a rainbow? I've never known a soul who didn't at least say, "Oh wow, look at the rainbow," when one appears.
It's a common phenomenon that will always leave us in awe. Of course, when we see them, we only see half of the rainbow; they ARE in the shape of a circle, but we just see the semi-circle.
But they're usually arching high above us. To be honest, the only times I've ever seen a rainbow, to my recollection, are late in the day when the sun is low. I've certainly never seen one like this:
That is WILD. But despite the fact this is the first time I've ever lain eyes on such a phenomenon, I'm gathering that it's not that unusual. (By the way, a big thanks to Morehead State University's Melisa Patrick for sharing this extraordinary image.)
Glenn McCreery with the Universities Space Research Association photographed a low rainbow at California's Sierra Nevada mountain range and offered this explanation:
In order for a rainbow to be detected at ground level, the Sun cannot be higher than approximately 42 degrees above the horizon (0 degrees). Therefore, low rainbows like this one are only observed from level ground when the Sun is fairly high in the sky.
I'm no scientist, but I'm wondering if this type of rainbow IS more common in mountainous areas. Melisa's photo obviously has the eastern Kentucky Appalachians in the background; McCreery's was taken at the Sierra Nevada; and this one was captured on video in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains:
By using the U.S. Naval Observatory's altitude/azimuth table, McCreery determined that the sun--at that time on that day in 2015--was 37 degrees above the horizon, making such a low-arcing rainbow visible. As a matter of fact, if you want to have a little scientific fun, you can enter the information for YOUR location and learn how high the sun is where you are right now.
I have to tell you, this has been quite an enjoyable learning experience for me, and I'd have to think that someone who works in education like Melisa Patrick would appreciate that result stemming from her post.
As the Harold Arlen/Yip Harburg standard goes, "Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high." Well, guys, not necessarily...not ALL the time, anyway.