Red rainbow over Bellingham, Washington

An EarthSky Community member caught an unusual red rainbow arching high into the sky.

Double rainbow over what looks like an apartment complex.

Lawrence Wong caught this photo on May 2, 2020, and wrote: “Just minutes before sunset and after raining, this double rainbow showed up on the eastern side of the sky. I gripped my camera and went outside and took several photos. This is one of them showing orange and red color inside the rainbow.”

Lawrence, you’ve caught a double red rainbow – a cousin to an ordinary multi-colored rainbow – that happens when the sun is low in the sky.

See how tall your rainbows are? The height of a rainbow corresponds (inversely) to the height of the sun in your sky. High sun, low rainbow. Low sun, high rainbow. So rainbow-watchers would know, without your having mentioned it, that the sun was low.

Now think about low suns for a moment. They typically appear reddish. That’s because – around sunset – you’re looking at the sun through a greater thickness of atmosphere than when the sun is high in the sky. At such times, the blue and green components of multi-colored sunrays are weakened by scattering during their long journey through the atmosphere to your eyes.

So red sunsets and red rainbows go hand-in-hand.

Thank you, Lawrence!

Read more and see more photos: What makes a red rainbow?

Bottom line: Photo of a red rainbow over Bellingham, Washington, on May 5, 2020.

Deborah Byrd