The 360-degree Rainbow

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 20:18 GMT le 14 avril 2005

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

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58. Planedude
23:13 GMT le 16 septembre 2016
Try my recent video of 360 degree rainbows. Shot from my aircraft.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yyHqyGEQypQ
Member Since: 14 septembre 2016 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
57. BaltimoreBrian
23:39 GMT le 25 août 2016
More to rainbows than meets the eye
Member Since: 9 août 2011 Posts: 27 Comments: 14268
56. 19N81W
16:18 GMT le 14 juin 2016
if conditions are improving why are we so dry?
Member Since: 24 août 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1032
55. 19N81W
16:06 GMT le 14 juin 2016
what basin?

Quoting 54. 19N81W:

Maybe in your neck of the woods!
atmosphere around here looks stagnant and pressurized
just a couple small simpsons clouds and haze....
ugggg


Member Since: 24 août 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1032
54. 19N81W
18:09 GMT le 26 avril 2016
Maybe in your neck of the woods!
atmosphere around here looks stagnant and pressurized
just a couple small simpsons clouds and haze....
ugggg

Quoting 39. islander101010:

spreading like poison ivy..favorable conditions throughout the basin
Member Since: 24 août 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1032
53. islander101010
12:37 GMT le 11 Mars 2016
terry and i drove into the pot of gold once here in e.cen florida. colors illuminated inside the car! amazing. once in a lifetime
Member Since: 11 septembre 2010 Posts: 4 Comments: 6933
52. swflurker
15:25 GMT le 29 février 2016
Well, since I keep on ending up here, I will leave a comment.
Never saw a 360 rainbow in my life! But the pic is cool!
Member Since: 6 août 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 671
51. Patrap
04:12 GMT le 23 novembre 2015
Dr. Masters first blog entry in 2005 was on the 360 degree rainbow.
Member Since: 3 juillet 2005 Posts: 450 Comments: 142784
50. Patrap
04:16 GMT le 23 novembre 2015
Member Since: 3 juillet 2005 Posts: 450 Comments: 142784
48. vidarito
15:56 GMT le 25 novembre 2014
Very interesting on rainbow science. Thanks.
Member Since: 26 octobre 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
46. winter123
19:27 GMT le 10 mai 2014
On mobile and got here by mistake. So glad I did! I had no idea a full circle rainbow could be viewed.
Member Since: 29 juillet 2006 Posts: 28 Comments: 1849
44. happykaren
21:27 GMT le 17 Mars 2014
I like how it is a circle rainbow...great capture

Karen
---------
Printing Services
Member Since: 15 Mars 2014 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
43. leonrosk
18:20 GMT le 12 septembre 2013
As a young merchant seaman many years ago, caught in a sudden tropical downpour in bright sunshine, I'd climbed the ladder to the next deck and looking behind me saw a double rainbow making a complete circle.

It was in the form of a slanted disc with the bottom of the disc at my feet and the top above the horizon (seemingly a long way away).

I realised that the angle of the disc was in a line with the sun behind me passing through my head to the illusion in front of me.

Since that time I know that I have to look for the rainbow with the sun behind me, and that latitude, and the height of the sun above the horizon, determines how high the top of the rainbow appears to be in the sky.
Member Since: 28 août 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
42. snotly
01:11 GMT le 10 septembre 2013
No weather under ground, then how come some caves here in MO are always 58 F and 100% humidity?
Member Since: 27 août 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 689
41. Dakster
13:46 GMT le 09 septembre 2013
So who won the photo of a 360 degree rainbow?
Member Since: 10 Mars 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 12689
39. islander101010
23:11 GMT le 25 août 2013
spreading like poison ivy..favorable conditions throughout the basin
Member Since: 11 septembre 2010 Posts: 4 Comments: 6933
38. Kumo
22:22 GMT le 25 août 2013
You should totally get this guy to do commentary on a 360-degree rainbow.
Member Since: 3 août 2012 Posts: 15 Comments: 150
34. wxchaser97
18:30 GMT le 23 novembre 2012
I had to see where it all started.

wxchaser97 was and is here...
Member Since: 16 Mars 2012 Posts: 128 Comments: 7993
33. MTWX
19:55 GMT le 14 septembre 2012
Was reading back through the old Katrina Blogs, and figured I'd stop in to see where it all began....

MTWX was here...
Member Since: 20 juillet 2009 Posts: 23 Comments: 1396
32. TomTaylor
07:13 GMT le 01 septembre 2012
Can we make this the new hangout spot?
Member Since: 24 août 2010 Posts: 19 Comments: 4358
31. MAweatherboy1
01:46 GMT le 11 août 2012
Wow, the first entry... 31 comments in 7 years.
Member Since: 11 février 2012 Posts: 92 Comments: 8826
30. TropicalAnalystwx13
01:20 GMT le 11 août 2012
Quoting CybrTeddy:
Oh this blog has no idea what it's in for..

Yeah...you've got that right, lol.
Member Since: 6 juillet 2010 Posts: 128 Comments: 35705
29. TomTaylor
07:29 GMT le 16 juillet 2012
TomTaylor was here
Member Since: 24 août 2010 Posts: 19 Comments: 4358
28. WxGeekVA
03:19 GMT le 17 mai 2012
If only one knew where this blog would be now.... Thanks for the original entry Dr. M.
Member Since: 3 septembre 2011 Posts: 13 Comments: 3486
27. SomeChaz
01:32 GMT le 17 février 2010
A different but also exciting phenomena is the "sundog"; in which rays refract through ice crystals. The differing index of refraction of solid water leads to a smaller radius rainbow even without clouds or rain present. Since the radius is tighter, one can often see the full circle. I saw one three days ago in Madison, WI, but I didn't have my camera. Here's an example: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-473524/Dazzling-image-circle-rainbow.html
26. CybrTeddy
01:42 GMT le 30 juin 2009
Oh this blog has no idea what it's in for..
Member Since: 8 juillet 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 25940
25. cycloone
20:48 GMT le 22 octobre 2008
hello
Member Since: 2 Mars 2003 Posts: 65 Comments: 1009
24. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
20:29 GMT le 29 juillet 2008
hello
Member Since: 15 juillet 2006 Posts: 196 Comments: 64528
23. OneDay
17:56 GMT le 01 août 2006
Just thought I'd drop a message on the "original."

Too cool.
Member Since: 13 juillet 2005 Posts: 35 Comments: 932
22. turtlehurricane
04:55 GMT le 02 juillet 2006
Flash to the past. Back to the future.
Member Since: 22 juillet 2005 Posts: 227 Comments: 469
21. Alec
04:38 GMT le 22 juin 2006
hey im here!!!!!!!cooooooooool!!!!!!!!
20. atmosweather
04:34 GMT le 22 juin 2006
ROFL DONT YOU KNOW THAT UR GONNA BE WRITING ONE EVERYDAY DR MASTERS LOL AHAHAHA!!!!!!!!
Member Since: 24 septembre 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
19. Levi32
04:33 GMT le 22 juin 2006
Welcom to WU Dr. Master's! ROFL!!!
Member Since: 24 novembre 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26780
17. shaviator
1:46 PM GMT on April 25, 2005
I have seen the "glory" rainbow many times from my plane but have also heard it called "the aviator's halo".
16. Groundrush
4:30 PM GMT on April 23, 2005
I have seen these before, when I'm skydiving and I steer my parachute into a cloud. I wish I would have had a camera with me!
Member Since: 18 février 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 1
15. Lemurian
8:09 PM PDT on April 22, 2005
Jeff says "After all, there is no weather underground." If this is true, then where are we??? LOL
Member Since: 20 août 2004 Posts: 20 Comments: 0
14. BIGJOHNBOY
11:10 PM GMT on April 22, 2005
COOL RIGHT TIME RIGHT PLACE
13. stuckindeleware
12:40 PM GMT on April 22, 2005
If a rainbow is a full circle...then WHERE'S THE POT OF GOLD???? I feel cheated.
Member Since: 22 avril 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
12. WunderYakuza (Admin)
4:57 PM PDT on April 21, 2005
You can also create a link to an image by selecting the text you wish to link and clicking the link button above the comment text box. Like so.
9. phoebe5555
10:24 PM GMT on April 21, 2005
I wondered if you saw this photo from Albania. It struck me and then I read your blog and it reminded me of this photo.
This is the URL.
http://www.wunderground.com/wximage/viewsingleimage.html?mode=singleimage&handle=Relian&number=0&album_id=4&thumbstart=&gallery=#slideanchor
Member Since: 17 avril 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
8. WMMcLaughlin
8:59 PM GMT on April 21, 2005
Never seen a 360, but I have seen a double, at least once, in Scotland I think. Have seen glories as an airline passenger.

But, courtesy of Uncle Sam's Great Grey Ocean Liners, I have also seen the Green Flash of the Tropics and The Corposant once each. Was watching for the Green Flash, but the Corposant was a surprise, and a year and an ocean before seeing the Green Flash.

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Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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