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Oblique supernumeraries to the primary rainbow

August 1, 2015: Rainbow with oblique supernumeries. Photo: Claudia Hinz

August 1, 2015: Rainbow with oblique supernumeries. Photo: Claudia Hinz

Last fall, two AKM members observed a rainbow with supernumeraries, which were clearly oblique to the primary rainbow.

On August 1, 2015, they were observed by Claudia Hinz on a red rainbow just before sunset in the Fichtelgebirge / Erzgebirge mountains. A rain front had just passed and the last precipitation from the departing clouds evaporated in the air, so that the raindrops did not reach the ground anymore. Virga were clearly visible and at the same time an intensive Zero order glow could be seen at the Sun side.

On October 5, 2015, Sirko Molau observed in Günzburg/Bavaria a similar phenomenon. Also here the rain shower had already passed and a strip of blue skies was visible near the horizon. Over one hour after the rain Sirko was surprised to see a bright rudiment of the rainbow. On the first glimpse it looked like a split rainbow. However, a closer look revealed that two interference bows disemminated obliquely from the root of the rainbow.


October 5, 2015: Rainbow foot with oblique supernumeries. Photo: Sirko Molau

The oblique interference arcs can be explained best with different raindrop sizes. In both cases, the rainbow appeared after the rain had disapperead and just when the Sun showed up. We can assume that dry air had already moved in, causing the last drops to evaporate on their way to the ground. So the raindrops quickly reduced in size after they left the cloud. The simulation of Les Cowley shows that with reduced drop size not only the number, but also the distance of the interference bows decreases.

Authors: Claudia Hinz, Sirko Molau, Germany


Zero Order Glow

When rain is falling with the setting sun behind it, there sometimes appears a golden or deep red glow in shape of a semicircle around the sun. Literature calls this glow “Zero Order Glow”. The name means that this glow is a zero order rainbow. This is because the light is not reflected within the raindrops once or twice, as it is the case in primary and secondary rainbows. In the case of a zero order glow, the light passes through the raindrops without being reflected, leaving them only a bit deviated. So there is no bow-shaped concentration of light, and the zero order glow appears in form of a diffuse shining area around the sun.

In normal cases, the phenomenon is visible only above the horizon. But when this photographs (23) was taken, a fine drizzle fell into the valley from a very low layer of clouds, causing also a glow beneath the horizon. Due to the low sun elevation and the long way the sunlight had to travel through the atmosphere, together with the additional light diffraction on the small drizzle particles, there is only the red light visible.

Author: Claudia Hinz, Wendelstein (1835m), Germany

Yellow Rainshower or Zero Order Glow

On August 13, I could witness another atmospheric phenomenon in Bochum, Germany.

In the evening, about half an hour before sunset, a rainshower approached from the west. Behind the shower, the sky cleared up very rapidly, so that the low evening sun could shine through the veil of rain. This caused very strange light conditions I never experienced before.

First there was a yellow squall line visible, followed by a bright yellow veil of precipitation. As it came nearer, another shelfcloud-like structure passed from south to east. This cloud was also strangely illuminated and showed orange and brownish colours.

The squall line in the western and northwestern part of the sky turned more and more orange, too, while the rain got an intense and bright yellow. The whole landscape was bathing in a strange and intense yellow light with orange-coloured clouds above and in the east.

When it began to rain, a rainbow appeared in the east, visible as a full semi-circle. The blue part of the bow had already gone, only red, yellow and a faint green were visible.

Then the sun sank beneath the horizon, and all colours faded away within a few minutes. So there was no really red rainbow that evening, but nevertheless it had been very impressive to me.

Author: Peter Krämer, Bochum, Germany