A scientist has confirmed the occurrence of a mythical phenomenon, called tertiary rainbows – three rainbows arcing through the sky at once – with real photographs of the events.
Few people have ever claimed having seen the rare phenomena.
In fact, scientific reports of these phenomena, were so rare—only five in 250 years—that until now many scientists believed sightings were as fanciful as Leprechaun’s gold at a rainbow’s end.
These legendary optical rarities, caused by three reflections of each light ray within a raindrop, have finally been confirmed, thanks to photographic perseverance and a new meteorological model that provides the scientific underpinnings to find them.
In addition to the confirmed photo of a tertiary rainbow, the optical treasure hunt went one step further, as revealed in another photo that shows the shimmering trace of a fourth (quaternary) rainbow.
Michael Grossman and Michael Theusner have snapped photos of tertiary rainbows since last year.
The day Grossman photographed the tertiary rainbow, he first recalled seeing a double rainbow. When the rain intensified, he knew he had to turn toward the Sun.
“It is really exaggerated to say that I saw it, but there seemed to be something,” he said.
The pictures he snapped in the rain were the first to show a tertiary rainbow.
The work is described in a series of papers in a special issue published this week in the Optical Society’s (OSA) journal Applied Optics.