Most Read: Local

Posted at 01:51 PM ET, 10/08/2012

Supernumerary rainbow at sunset in Virginia


Four rainbows appear stacked in the sky at sunset near Culpeper, Virginia on Sunday evening. This type of rainbow is called a supernumerary rainbow, or stacker rainbow. A larger version of this photo can be found here. (Kevin Ambrose)

While I was driving north on Route 29 Sunday evening near Culpeper, Virginia, I saw a sight that I have rarely observed, a rainbow at sunset. Sunset and sunrise rainbows are often missing their violet, blue, and green bands because the light at sunrise/sunset is more scattered by the atmosphere and the shorter wavelengths of light, such as blue and green, are removed from the spectrum.

I pulled off onto the shoulder of the road to take a few photos. As I photographed, I noticed multiple rainbows near the primary rainbow. There also appeared to be a faint double rainbow. This type of rainbow is called a supernumerary rainbow, or stacker rainbow.

I counted four rainbows in the eastern sky although a couple were very faint. The optical phenomenon that causes the supernumerary rainbow is different from the rare quadruple rainbow that is described by this National Geographic article. Supernumerary rainbows are most visible when raindrops in the sky are both small and similar in size.

Read below for more photos showing a wider view.


A wide view of the supernumerary rainbow near Culpeper, Virginia. A larger version of this photo can be found here. (Kevin Ambrose)

A wide view of the supernumerary rainbow near Culpeper, Virginia. A larger version of this photo can be found here. (Kevin Ambrose)

By  |  01:51 PM ET, 10/08/2012

Categories:  Latest, Photography

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company