The 360-degree Rainbow

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 8:18 PM GMT on April 14, 2005

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Most people don't realize it, but a rainbow is actually a full circle. You usually can't see the full circle, since half of the rainbow lies beneath the horizon, where it is not raining. After all, there is no weather underground. However, if one is in an airplane or overlooking a waterfall, the 360-degree rainbow can be seen. I know--I have seen them twice from research airplanes that were flying through rain showers. Check out the 360-degree rainbow image at the bottom. Note that there is a separate optical phenomena, called a glory (caused by diffraction), surrounding the shadow of the airplane. Unfortunately, I only had a 23mm wide angle lens, and could not capture the entire 360-degree rainbow. To my knowledge, no one has captured a photograph of a full NATURAL 360-degree rainbow. You can easily photograph one using a sprinkler, as this photographer has done here.

I challenge all you wunderphotographers to capture a 360-degree rainbow image in rain or waterfall mist. First photographer to post such a natural 360-degree rainbow image wins a free 2-year wunderground.com membership!

Update: In 2013, a photographer on a helicopter in Australia captured a beautiful picture of a 360-degree rainbow, posted at NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day website.

Jeff Masters

360-degree rainbow (JeffMasters)
A rainbow is not a half-circle, but a full circle, as this photo taken from NOAA's P-3 Orion weather reseach aircraft demonstrates. A rain shower beneath the aircraft allowed me to see the entire circle of the rainbow, although the 23-mm wide angle lens was not quite wide enough to capture the entire circle.
360-degree rainbow

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

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111. swflurker
5:48 AM GMT on December 17, 2016
Well!! 3 nights in a row!
This is getting scaring now!
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
110. Climate175
11:20 PM GMT on December 16, 2016
What in the world, lol.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
109. Grothar
11:02 PM GMT on December 16, 2016
The only scary part is that I am stuck in time with PensacolaDoug.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
108. Grothar
11:00 PM GMT on December 16, 2016
Did I have a blackout?
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
107. Some1Has2BtheRookie
4:17 PM GMT on December 16, 2016
It looks like mankind is destined to revisit its past and to revisit our past words. on the bright side, we look so much younger. ;)
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
106. PensacolaDoug
2:31 PM GMT on December 16, 2016
Time warp again!
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
105. weathermanwannabe
12:41 PM GMT on December 16, 2016
Patrap posted a pic of Rod Serling from Twilight Zone yesterday; TV has become reality....................I have started to trim down getting ready to shed some pounds for my "year of health" in 2017. But I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would also become 10 years younger on the Eve of Christmas; Thank You Santa......................
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
104. swflurker
6:09 AM GMT on December 16, 2016
We need to keep track of this. Thanks!

Quoting 96. RTLSNK:

Now this is funny, the 2005 blog only had 17 comments.
Actually, comments 1, 5, 6, 10, 11, and 18 were deleted, so I am
not sure if comment 18 was from 2005 or 2006.
Counting mine, we now have 22 comments this year.
At the rate we keep getting sent here we could double that before
the end of the year. LOL

5 in 2006
2 in 2008
1 in 2009
1 in 2010
7 in 2012
5 in 2013
3 in 2014
2 in 2015

That totals 65 comments, so 30 comments have been deleted.
We have discovered an internet Worm Hole right here on WU. heh heh heh

I'm getting out of here while I still can.

Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
103. swflurker
6:08 AM GMT on December 16, 2016
WOW! Back again!!! 2 nights in a row!
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
102. seasonsandcycles
6:06 AM GMT on December 16, 2016
Check out the 360 degree rainbow from a canyon waterfall on this website: https://steemit.com/life/@volent/the-rainbow
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
101. aquak9
3:21 AM GMT on December 16, 2016
again??
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
How did I end up here!!!
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
The rainbow is back!
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Add another for 2016!
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Now this is funny, the 2005 blog only had 17 comments.
Actually, comments 1, 5, 6, 10, 11, and 18 were deleted, so I am
not sure if comment 18 was from 2005 or 2006.
Counting mine, we now have 22 comments this year.
At the rate we keep getting sent here we could double that before
the end of the year. LOL

5 in 2006
2 in 2008
1 in 2009
1 in 2010
7 in 2012
5 in 2013
3 in 2014
2 in 2015

That totals 65 comments, so 30 comments have been deleted.
We have discovered an internet Worm Hole right here on WU. heh heh heh

I'm getting out of here while I still can.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
AAAaaaaand-

I'm back.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Oh my.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting 92. washingaway:

What the hell, how did i get back to 2005? Has the last decade been a dream? Boy, the things I know now that I didn't know then.


Wait until you find out who becomes President in a decade...
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
What the hell, how did i get back to 2005? Has the last decade been a dream? Boy, the things I know now that I didn't know then.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
I have seen the main Bow almost close itself below with the shadow of the airplane in the centre.
Last I looked Wiki told me that the main Bow is a circle around your shadow at 42 degrees from line of sight.
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Back to the 360-degree Rainbow ! Woohoo !

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Well, here I am again! I love this particular blog, but I've been here one too many times! ;-) (I do love rainbows....)

Lindy
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Rainbows in Art Many paintings inside link.
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Might as well start posting here since we are being redirected to this locale anyway.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Hello 2005,..

Sit down, we have a lot to talk about.

Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
hmm...
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Oh wow, I remember this from a long time ago, after the hurricanes in 2004 I was excited to find this site. I've logged in nearly daily ever since, for over a decade!
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Ahh!, ok I finally found the legendary rainbow post! (the zero indexing of the "entrynums" led me astray) :D
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Cat 6 lead authors: WU cofounder Dr. Jeff Masters (right), who flew w/NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990, & WU meteorologist Bob Henson, @bhensonweather