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.

viewed 14145 times

The answer

Barry Shell 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.

Add to or comment on this answer using the form below.

Note: All submissions are moderated prior to posting.

If you found this answer useful, please consider making a small donation to