Supernumerary Rainbow


IN Mr. Backhouse's letter (NATURE, vol. x. p. 437) he remarks that the supernumerary rainbow is commonly seen only in the upper part of the arch. Dr. Thomas Young, in his Bakerian Lecture (“Works,” vol. i. p. 185, or Phil. Trans. 1804), after explaining the supernumerary bow by interferences, quotes a paper in vol. xxxii. of the Phil. Trans., in which Dr. Langwith describes his observation of a supernumerary bow on August 21, 1722; then remarks: “I have never observed these inner orders of colours in the lower parts of the rainbow. I have taken notice of this so often that I can hardly look upon it as accidental; and if it should prove true in general, it will bring the disquisition into a narrow compass; for it will show that this effect depends upon some property which the drops retain whilst they are in the upper part of the air, but lose as they come lower and are more mixed with one another.” But I am not aware that anyone has ever remarked an appearance which struck me on seeing a few days ago a very complete primary and secondary bow with a portion of two supernumerary bows within the primary and about the highest part of the arch. To my eye the supernumerary bows were not concentric with the primary. My son agreed with me as to this appearance when I pointed it out to him; yet I thought it was probably an illusion till the following explanation occurred to me.

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BLACKBURN, J. Supernumerary Rainbow. Nature 10, 503 (1874) doi:10.1038/010503a0

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