The other day, after a brief rain shower, a colorful rainbow appeared over the Atlantic Ocean, near the tip of Sandy Hook and at the entrance of New York Harbor. While brighter rainbows have certainly been seen, this multicolored arc still had its charm. The rainbow colored the sky with soft shades of red, orange, yellow and blue, making a lovely curve and a stunning scene across calm ocean waters.
Who doesn’t like a rainbow? Its awe-inspiring radiance and glow has the ability to bring joy to people of all ages.
Yet, rainbows really don’t exist. Since they don’t actually occur in a specific spot or place in the sky, they are scientifically just optical illusions. The appearance of a rainbow depends on where you're standing and where the sun or light source is shining on water droplets in the atmosphere. The sun almost always has to be shinning behind you.
As sunlight passes into a droplet, the light bends, or refracts, a little, because light travels slower in water than in air (because water is denser). Then the light bounces off the back of the water droplet and goes back the way it came, bending again as it speeds up when it exits the water droplet. Since sunlight is made up of many wavelengths—or colors—of light, the light reflecting back to you, will appear separated into all the colors of the rainbow! Violet will be on the bottom and red on the top (information from Scijinks).
No pot of gold at the end of this rainbow, just a big tanker at the end of the arc. This is still New York Harbor.