Physics Question #2476
kumar sah, a 36 year old male from Davis Ca. asks on January 8, 2005,
I want to explain to my 6 year old daughter, why the rainbow appears bent/arched in a semicircle in the sky.
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answered on January 9, 2005
The explanation has to do with angles of light bent by spherical raindrops. In reality the rainbow is a complete circle, but the bottom half is blocked from your vision because of the horizon. From an airplane it's possible to see a full circle rainbow if conditions are right. This is explained nicely at Tom Field and Roy Sewall's PhotoCentric website. Make sure to click on the illustration.
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