Bows everywhere!   This extraordinary scene was captured by Terje O. Nordvik in September '04 near Sandessjøen in northern Norway. Image ©Terje O. Nordvik, shown with permission.

"Rather intense rain showers had occurred that afternoon, in between which brief glimpses of a low hanging Sun brightened the moody sky."

There are at least six bows.


The bows in the sky

Between the usual primary and secondary bows is a third bow, a ‘reflection’ primary.

Sunlight reflected off the water and traveling upwards makes the reflection bow. To raindrops, the reflected light appears to come from a second sun the same angular distance below the water as the real sun is above it.

The ‘second sun’ forms a rainbow centered on a point opposite in the sky called the ‘anthelic point’. The reflection bow intersects the ordinary primary at the horizon and curves above it in the sky.

Secondary bows also produce reflection rainbows.

Bows in the water
The bows below the horizon are not reflections in the true sense. They are formed by different raindrops from the ones that formed the sky bows.

Reflected bows are made by rays that are reflected by the water surface after they have passed through raindrops. The reflection inverts the rainbow and the bow centre is then above the horizon at the anthelic point. The reflection bow and ordinary bow meet in a cusp at the horizon.

The reflected - reflection bow below the horizon is formed by a tortuous ray path. Sunlight reflects off the water and travels upwards. It then meets raindrops which form rainbow rays. These reflect again off the water into the eye.

More reflection & reflected bows 1,2,3,4,5,6