How Sunlight and Ice Combine to Create a Fire Rainbow

Think of appreciating see a significant rainbow that appears to be ablaze– its colors sparkling across the sky from perspective to perspective. This effect, though unusual, can happen under the best climate condition. It’s commonly called a fire rainbow, however the taxonomic name is a circumhorizontal arc.

2 special conditions should exist to generate a fire rainbow:

1. Cirrus clouds must exist. They’re slender clouds that exist in the high elevation, where the air is extremely cold. The reduced temperature level up there implies the clouds are composed of numerous hexagonal (or six-sided) ice crystals.

2. Sunlight must pass through the cirrus clouds at an extremely high angle– more than 58 degrees to the ground. The rays of sunlight striking the clouds’ crystals create an effect like sending a beam of light via a prism, yet increased by millions.

Below’s why the fire rainbow happens: Sunlight goes through the upright face of the ice crystal but is then bent downward– or refracted– via the crystal’s lower face, toward the ground.

In a vacuum cleaner, light waves travel in a straight line. But when light hits dense material like glass, water, or ice, it decreases and changes instructions, just as a scuba diver does when going into water. For that reason, sunshine taking a trip via strong ice crystals bends. The refraction of sunlight through the cloud’s numerous crystals creates the sparkling, fire-like impact.

In addition to refraction, the light can be divided right into different bands of tinted light, growing the effect. This arc of shimmering color can span the horizon, which is why it’s called a circumhorizontal arc.

Fire rainbows are uncommon, yet when they do appear, they can cover thousands of miles and last for hrs.

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