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If light travels in a straight line, why are rainbows curved?

Why, if light travels in a straight line are rainbows curved?

Paul Campbell from West Yorkshire (age 35-44)

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One Response

  1. The light is not travelling along the curve of the bow. Light is refracted and reflected from behind you, in the raindrops, back to where you observed it, at a particular angle (around 42 degrees from the original incident ray). See http://www.atoptics.co.uk/rainbows/primcone.htm and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainbow#Scientific_explanation. Each observer sees their own rainbow, because the particular arc you see depends where you are, and the journey each ray has made from the sun through refraction in the raindrop to you.

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