Friday was the first rain we’d seen in over a month. By evening, the trailing edge of the storm was starting to cross central Orange County, and I actually drove back into the cloud cover to pick Katie up from work. We ended up stopping for dinner, and got back on the road around sunset.

Rainbow at sunset.At sunset, there were clouds above us, rain in the east, and clear skies to the west, showing a bright orange sun. We looked to the east, and saw a huge rainbow. It was extremely high—it looked like it ought to be an entire circle, even though I knew it couldn’t be more than a semicircle. That doesn’t come through in the one photo that came out, since it’s a matter of perception: neither of us had ever seen a rainbow centered at the horizon before. It was also faint (I had to increase the contrast on this photo), and very red.

Sunset behind a blimp hangar.

Google Images pulls up some nice pictures when you search for rainbow sunset. I particularly like this one at Flickr, which also shows spoke-like rays. Atmospheric Optics’ rainbow section is also worth a look, especially for some of the odd kinds of rainbows that aren’t often seen.

4 thoughts on “Crimson Rainbow

  1. You said, “…it looked like it ought to be an entire circle, even though I knew it couldn’t be more than a semicircle.”

    Does that mean you don’t/didn’t think full-circle rainbows are visible/exist? For whatever it’s worth from an e-stranger, I’ve seen one. It was about ten years, ago, and I took a picture on a camera I seem to have lost since then, but it was real and a few of us saw it (after they noticed me walking around staring at and snapping pix of the sky, that is).

  2. I know full-circle rainbows exist, but we were in a big flat area near ground level, and the point opposite the sun—the center of the rainbow—was just below the horizon. So there was no way we could have seen a lower arc.

    Looking at the picture, which removes the “Whoa, that’s tall!” context, it looks like the side was more or less vertical where it touched the ground.

    So what did the one you saw look like?

  3. I wish I could remember it more clearly, since that film is m.i.a.

    I think I was somewhere just within the Pennsylvania border at an arcade/go-kart/not-quite-a-mall kinda place. I parked, then saw the ‘bow as I walked across the lot. Perfect circle.

    It’s hard to recall how distinct the colors were, but I think they each stood out pretty well – especially the violet. (It’s funny how “talking” through this has refreshed my memory.)

    It was high in the sky – maybe the center was 70 degrees from where I was standing. The entire circle was visible, unlike some that are pretty visible in some parts, but less so at others.

    I ran back to the car to get the camera, but *shrugs*. I still kinda hope I’ll find that film, one day, and salvage the picture… but I won’t hold my breath.

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