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Secondary Rainbows
fainter than a primary rainbow

A secondary rainbow appears outside of a primary rainbow and develops when light entering a raindrop undergoes two internal reflections instead of just one (as is the case with a primary rainbow). The intensity of light is reduced even further by the second reflection, so secondary rainbows are not as bright as primary rainbows. Alternatively: fewer light rays go through the four-step sequence than the three-step sequence.

[Image: a secondary rainbow (43K)]
Photograph by: Olthoff

Terms for using data resources. CD-ROM available.
Credits and Acknowledgments for WW2010.
Department of Atmospheric Sciences (DAS) at
the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.