The Science Behind The Double Rainbow in Towson

Real Estate Agent with Cummings & Co. Realtors

Yesterday we had a quick rainstorm blow through, and then a gorgeous rainbow appeared.

Well, not just one rainbow, but TWO!

I ran outside to get a picture, and was able to get a few, including this panoramic shot before the next rain clouds rolled in.


Something I hadn't thought of before is, why are the colors in the second rainbow inverted? I figured it had something to do with the way that light reflected from water droplets, but I wasn't sure exactly why.

I knew would have the scientific answer for me:

The second and more faint rainbow is called the secondary rainbow. It occurs when refracted light does not escape the raindrop after being reflected the first time. Instead, the refracted light reflects off the raindrop's surface a second time as well, producing a secondary rainbow with its colors reversed compared to the primary rainbow.

NOAA's website gives us even more of an explanation with degrees as to why it happens: 

Sometimes we see two rainbows at once. What causes this? We have followed the path of a ray of light as it enters and is reflected inside the raindrop. But, not all of the energy of the ray escapes the raindrop after it is reflected once. A part of the ray is reflected again, and travels along a different path inside the drop to emerge from the drop at a different angle. The rainbow we normally see is called the primary rainbow and is produced from one internal reflection. The secondary rainbow arises from two internal reflections and the rays exit the drop the second time at an angle of around 50o, rather than the 42o for the primary rainbow. This effect produces the secondary rainbow, with the colors reversed from the primary rainbow.


Another interesting fact about yesterday's rainbow is that when it first began, it looked like it ended in my backyard, but by the time I got upstairs to my balcony, the end had moved. I guess that depends on where the light hits the water droplets.

In any case, enjoy the beauty!




For any real estate needs in Towson, Maryland or around the Baltimore Metropolitan area,


Marney Kirk

Keller Williams Excellence Realty

2331 York Road, Suite 100   Lutherville Timonium, MD 21093



Office: 410-560-5858 Cell: 410-493-4884


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Irene Morales Ward
REMAX Distinctive Real Estate, Inc. - Stafford, VA
Realtor - e-Pro - Northern Virginia Real Estate

What a great shot! I went to school at Towson! Miss it terribly.  Such a beautiful area!


Jan 11, 2016 12:28 AM #1
Debbie Laity
Cedaredge Land Company - Cedaredge, CO
Your Real Estate Resource for Delta County, CO

You got a great picture, Marney. I don't think we are going to be seeing any rainbows out my way for a while. It's very cold. The skies have cleared up, though. We haven't seen much sun since just before Christmas. 

Jan 11, 2016 07:46 AM #2
Steffy Hristova
HomeSmart Elite Group Tempe AZ Tel: 480-966-9353 - Tempe, AZ
Tempe AZ Realtor - Your Home Close to Your Work!

What dramatic contrasts and colors!

Jan 13, 2016 11:21 AM #3
Elyse Berman, PA
Best Connections Realty, Inc. - Boca Raton, FL
Boca Raton FL (561) 716-7824 CRS, ABR, GRI,ePR

Marney Kirk Great shot!  I never realized the colors of a second rainbow are inverted.  Thank you for the explanation.  I never fail to learn something each time I sign on to AR.

Jan 14, 2016 07:37 PM #4
Debra Leisek
Bay Realty,Inc Homer Alaska - Homer, AK

Nice Shot! Love  Double Rainbows! They are supposed to bring you good luck! Thank you!

PS I saw this because Patricia Kennedy featured your post! Congratualtions!

Jan 16, 2016 03:44 PM #5
Women of Westchester Working Together
Women of Westchester Working Together - West Harrison, NY
Women helping Women get ahead

Thanks for the explanation.  Last saturday, when I was on the plane (in the air) I noticed something I had never seen before.  It was a very wide rainbow basically covering most of the wing.  It must have been from the water droplets and my sunglasses.  When I took the sunglasses off I couldn't see it any more.  I had never seen such large and wide rings...and truly could see such an array of gradual colors.

Jan 16, 2016 10:08 PM #6
Patricia Kennedy
RLAH Real Estate - Washington, DC
Home in the Capital

Hi, Marney!

I included this post in todays Last Week's Favorites on ActiveRain.  And enjoy the rest of your weekend!


Jan 16, 2016 11:32 PM #7
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Forty years ago I was a missionary in South America.  One day we saw a double rainbow.  It looked like one side of it was pointing to the hut of someone we knew.  We went to their house to tell them of what we saw and found they had just had a baby.

Not a pot of gold, but...

Jan 16, 2016 11:32 PM #8
Ed Silva
Mapleridge Realty, CT 203-206-0754 - Waterbury, CT
Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally

It's a great show for sure.  So few people realize that a rainbow is not an arc at all but just the visible portion of a circle, or in this case 2 circles.

Jan 17, 2016 09:08 AM #9
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Marney Kirk 

Double rainbows are such a treat and so rare. I was curious to know more about what actually causes them so thanks for sharing that. 


Jan 17, 2016 12:54 PM #10
Chris Ann Cleland
Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA - Bristow, VA
Associate Broker, Bristow, VA

So the second rainbow is a reflected rainbow.  Makes sense. Never noticed the colors being inverted.

Jan 18, 2016 09:32 AM #11
Praful Thakkar
LAER Realty Partners - Andover, MA
Andover, MA: Andover Luxury Homes For Sale

Marney Kirk wow - beautiful picture of double rainbow. I had seen it once behind my home and it did not last long enough for me to take the pictures.

Jan 18, 2016 03:03 PM #12
Joe Petrowsky
Mortgage Consultant, Right Trac Financial Group, Inc. NMLS # 2709 - Manchester, CT
Your Mortgage Consultant for Life

Good morning Marney. Thank you for sharing this wonderful shot, what a gift, hope it brings you lots of luck.

Jan 18, 2016 08:30 PM #13
Sharon Tara
Sharon Tara Transformations - Portsmouth, NH
New Hampshire Home Stager

So beautiful....I don't even care why!  LOL

I wouldn't even have noticed one of them was inverted.  LOL

Jan 19, 2016 03:36 AM #14
Georgie Hunter R(S) 58089
Hawai'i Life Real Estate Brokers - Haiku, HI
Maui Real Estate sales and lifestyle info

Rainbows are always fun, no matter how many times you see them.  I also never realized the colors were inverted, so thanks for explaining that!  Now I'll pay more attention next time... we get plenty of rainbows and doubles too.

Mar 12, 2016 07:42 AM #15
Robert Vegas Bob Swetz
Las Vegas, NV

Hello Marney ... 

Interesting post and a great photo, I almost missed this one.

Mar 29, 2016 05:36 AM #16
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Marney Kirk

Towson, Maryland Real Estate
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