What is a Rainbow?

Rainbows are arcs that appear in the sky and form from the interaction between sunlight and water droplets.

When rainbows are formed, you can see small strips of colors one after the other in the color scale. They are aligned, going from red at the top of the arc to violet at the bottom

  • Red
  • Orange
  • Yellow
  • Green
  • Blue
  • Indigo
  • Violet

How are Rainbows Formed?

How does sunlight interact with water droplets to form a rainbow?

  • Sunlight is known as white light, and water droplets act like a glass prism.
  • Water and air are different types of material. Water is more dense than air.
  • When the sun’s white light passes through the water droplets, it bends and splits into 7 colors.
  • These 7 colors are reflected back to us as a rainbow.

When does a Rainbow Form?

Rainbows only occur during specific weather conditions.

  • Rainbows occur right after it rains when water droplets are suspended in the air.
  • The sun must be behind you.
  • The clouds have cleared away from the sun.

Fun Fact: Double rainbows occur when sunlight is reflected twice in the water droplet. The colors of the second rainbow are in reverse order!


Let’s quickly recap what we learned about rainbows today:

  • How many colors are in a rainbow in total? Seven colors
  • What kind of light does the sun represent to form a rainbow? White light
  • What 2 factors interact to create a rainbow? Water droplets and sunlight  
  • You can see a rainbow at any time of the day. True or False? False


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