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What does a Double Rainbow Mean?

Batul Nafisa Baxamusa Oct 16, 2018
It is always a delight to see a rainbow, but the occurrence of a double rainbow is surely a delightful phenomenon. Perplexing as it may sound, ScienceStruck explains how this beautiful event occurs.
After a light shower graces the parched Earth, a spectacular light show appears in the sky. This colorful spectrum of light appears when the sun shines on the tiny droplets of moisture present in the atmosphere.
Rainbow is a meteorological process that encompasses three sub-processes namely: reflection, refraction, and dispersion. This beautiful formation may be formed due to dew, rain, mist, and spray.
A simple rainbow contains one arc having seven colors in a sequence, whereas in the case of a double rainbow one arc is observed outside the main arc. Rainbows are also known to form quite long arcs which are difficult to be captured in a single camera shot.

What does a Double Rainbow Mean?

A rainbow is a color spectrum in the shape of an arc that appears when sunlight shines on the water drops at a low altitude angle. A rainbow can be observed clearly when the sky is dark with rain clouds and one is standing in the direction of the sunlight. One commonly spots this beautiful creation near a fountain or waterfall.
The seven colors, namely, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet form a rainbow. It does not have a particular position in the sky, and always appears in the opposite direction of the Sun with respect to the position of the observer.
The rainbow appears at an angle of 40° to 42° between the line on the observer's head and his/her shadow. The basic meaning implies that it is a secondary rainbow. It is seen appearing outside the primary rainbow and is particularly lighter in color than the original rainbow.
Also, the natural colors of the rainbow (in order) are inverted compared to the primary rainbow. This means that the color red which appears on the outside for a rainbow, will be visible on the inside with the blue color on the outside of the double rainbow.


It is caused by the reflection of the sunlight inside the raindrops. These raindrops appear at the angle of 50° to 53°. This double reflection causes the appearance of the secondary rainbow. The colors of the secondary rainbow are lighter than the primary rainbow because the amount of light that escapes the two reflections is more.
Also, the secondary rainbow has more surface area in the sky. When you look closely, there is a dark area of the unlit sky present between the primary and secondary rainbow. This unlit area is called the Alexander's band. It was named after Alexander of Aphrodisias, who was the first person to describe a double formation.

Double Rainbow - An Internet Viral Video

While double rainbow is a natural phenomenon, it did not gain popularity until it was posted on the Internet. One fine day, Mr. Paul 'Bear' Vasquez, shot a double rainbow from his frontyard. He lived just outside the Yosemite National Park. He posted the video and his reaction after seeing this beautiful color spectrum.
Little did he know that his video would go viral so quick. It so happened that late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel linked this video to his Twitter page on July 3, 2010. He stated that according to him and his friend, this was the 'funniest video in the world'. Soon, people started to visit the video page and have a look at it themselves.
The video was posted by Vasquez in January and after the statement by Kimmel, it got over one million hits on YouTube. By 16th July, the video had received over 4.8 million views. Soon, fan pages were created using Vasquez's voice, turning it into an Internet meme.
A double rainbow could mean the natural phenomenon that occurs when the water droplets in atmosphere are hit by sunlight. It could also mean that someone is referring to the viral video about this natural occurrence posted on the Internet by Paul Vasquez.