Rainbows of Multiple Orders

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This Demonstration shows the position and colors for the first 10 orders of rainbows formed by the reflection and refraction of the Sun's rays in drops of water.


The primary rainbow is at 42°, the secondary rainbow at 52° and the tertiary rainbow at 41°, all with respect to the Sun's direction.


Contributed by: Volodymyr Holovatsky and Elizabeth Orynchuk (August 2022)
(Yuriy Fedkovych Chernivtsi National University, Ukraine, and Vyzhnytsia Gymnasium, Ukraine)
Open content licensed under CC BY-NC-SA




[1] J. D. Walker, "Multiple Rainbows from Single Drops of Water and Other Liquids," American Journal of Physics, 44(5), 1976 pp. 421–433. doi:10.1119/1.10172.

[2] R. L. Lee and P. Laven, "Visibility of Natural Tertiary Rainbows," Applied Optics, 50(28), 2011 pp. F152–F161. doi:10.1364/AO.50.00F152.

[3] M. Großmann, E. Schmidt and A. Haußmann, "Photographic Evidence for the Third-Order Rainbow," Applied Optics, 50(28), 2011 pp. F134–F141. doi:10.1364/AO.50.00F134.

[4] M. Theusner, "Photographic Observation of a Natural Fourth-Order Rainbow," Applied Optics, 50(28), 2011 pp. F129–F133. doi:10.1364/AO.50.00F129.

[5] H. E. Edens, "Photographic Observation of a Natural Fifth-Order Rainbow," Applied Optics, 54(4), 2015 pp. B26–B34. doi:10.1364/AO.54.000B26.

[6] D. T. Ivanov and S. N. Nikolov, "A New Way to Demonstrate the Rainbow," The Physics Teacher, 54(8), 2016 pp. 460–463. doi:10.1119/1.4965263.

[7] M. Welter, "Another Rainbow Demonstration with a Glass Sphere," The Physics Teacher, 57(5), 2019 p. 344. doi:10.1119/1.5098931.

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