Yes, the ‘quadruple rainbow’ photo is real, but it’s not a quadruple rainbow

Amanda Curtis’ rare photo of oddly angled rainbows over Long Island on April 21, 2015 is the real thing. These are called reflection rainbows …

Amanda Curtis, CEO of 19th Amendment, must have had a very lucky day when she caught this photo. While waiting for a train in Long Island on April 21, 2015, she caught this heavenly vision of what are called reflection rainbows.

Amanda’s photo quickly went viral. Les Cowley of the great website Atmospheric Optics quickly pegged it as reflection rainbows, and Bad Astronomer Phil Plait at Slate agrees. In other words, according to Phil:

The angle of the weirder, more vertical bows is what gives it away. If the light forming rainbows reflects off a body of water (say, a lake, pond, or even standing water on a road) you get another set of rainbows cast at a different angle.

Les explains that reflection rainbows are:

… produced by sunlight beaming upwards after reflection from calm water or wet sand …

Thanks, Amanda Curtis, for sharing your pic with us at EarthSky!

P.S. This reflected double rainbow is a different phenomenon, by the way, from what experts in atmospheric optics call tertiary or quaternary bows. They are even more rare. Read the latest on them – from 2011 – here: First-ever photos of triple and quadruple rainbows

Read more from Les Cowley on reflection rainbows

Bottom line: Amanda Curtis’ rare photo of rainbows over Long Island on April 21, 2015 isn’t photoshopped. It’s the real deal. It’s what’s called a reflection rainbow, in this case, a reflected double rainbow.

Deborah Byrd