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Rare and wonderful full-circle rainbow

In theory, any rainbow can be a full circle, but – from Earth’s surface – we typically see only the top part of a rainbow.

View larger. | Full circle rainbow was captured over Cottesloe Beach near Perth, Australia in 2013 by Colin Leonhardt of Birdseye View Photography.  He was in a helicopter flying between a setting sun and a downpour.   Used with permission.  Order prints of this photo.

View larger. | Full circle rainbow captured over Cottesloe Beach near Perth, Australia in 2013 by Colin Leonhardt of Birdseye View Photography. He was in a helicopter flying between a setting sun and a downpour. Used with permission. Order prints of this photo.

Colin Leonhardt kindly gave us permission to publish this awesome full-circle rainbow photo, which was the Astronomy Picture of the Day on September 30, 2014. People often think they have seen full-circle rainbows, but what they are most commonly seeing are airplane glories or halos around the sun. It’s very rare to see a full-circle rainbow. You have to be up high to see one, and sky conditions have to be perfect. Remember … a true rainbow is seen when you’re looking opposite the sun, through a shower of rain.

Colin Leonhardt captured this full-circle rainbow over Cottesloe Beach near Perth, Australia in 2013. He was in a helicopter, flying between sunset and a shower of rain.

Notice the second rainbow – fainter and color-reversed – outside the first.

Thank you, Colin!

Order prints of this photo.

Bottom line: Beautiful photo of rare full-circle rainbow, captured from the air by Colin Leonhardt in Perth, Australia.

Deborah Byrd

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