ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Color Order of the Rainbow

Updated on February 20, 2013
A full rainbow.
A full rainbow. | Source
A double rainbow with a bold primary rainbow and a very faint secondary rainbow.
A double rainbow with a bold primary rainbow and a very faint secondary rainbow. | Source
The colors of the rainbow in order are: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet (purpoe).
The colors of the rainbow in order are: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet (purpoe). | Source

By Joan Whetzel

Rainbows, sometimes described as "nature's most spectacular light show," inspire everything from fairy tales to legends, songs to movies. They mystify and awe us with their rare beauty, for they only appear under the most limited of natural conditions. Think about it. We have all witnessed untold rain storms in our lifetime, not to mention the sunrises and sunsets too numerous to count. But how many times have we had the sun at just the right angle following a rainstorm to allow us to witness the beauty of a rainbow? Rainbow occurances are rare enough to leave us wondering in amazement at how the science of simple optics can create such a marvel.



Refraction and the Rainbow

The basic science behind rainbows is refraction. Just as light entering and exiting a prism, light entering and exiting a raindrop is refracted. What's happening is that light travels at different speeds when moving from one medium to another (air to water, and water to air).

As sunlight enters the water drop, the white light is split into its component colors and bent. As it exits the raindrop on the other side, it is bent again. Because the different colors of light have different wavelengths or frequencies, they travel at different speeds. The red light, which moves the slowest, has a wider arc and it occurs on the outermost band of the rainbow. The indigo light has a much faster wavelength and travels at a faster speed, producing a much tighter arc, which puts it on the inner band of the rainbow.

If you've ever seen the rainbow effect produced by a prism with straight edges, you will have noticed that the rainbow isn't a bow, or arc, at all. Because the prism has straight edges, the separated colors are bent in straight lines. Raindrops, on the other hand are essentially spherical in shape. They are rounded, which is why they produce rainbows with an arc shape. The colors are bent into a curve going into the raindrop, and bent into a curve coming out the other side.

The Color Order

The rainbow's color spectrum appears in colored bands because of our eyes' ability to perceive color. Color photos also "see" the color banding. Black and white photograph, on the other hand, only engenders a single arched band, because it can differentiate between the individual colors. The color order begins on the outermost band with:

  • Red the color of heat, danger, stop signs, fire trucks, the red cross, emergency, Christmas, joy and celebration.
  • Orange the color of happiness, energy, flamboyance, arrogance, aggression, stimulation, and Halloween.
  • Yellow the color of weakness, greed, cowardice, deceit, hazard or yield signs, peace, and sunlight.
  • Green the color of Ireland, St. Patrick's Day, Go on a traffic light, fertility, good luck, wealth, life and growth.
  • Blue the color of power, police, bridal tradition, peace, water, sky, and Heaven.
  • Indigo the color of denim, authority, royalty, blueberries, trust, truthfulness, stability, and the midnight sky.
  • Violet (purple) the sign of wealth (Marti Gras), royalty, purple robes of those in authority or with high rank, the Purple Heart decoration for military wounded in battle, encouragement of creativity, uplifting the spirit, and calmness.


Double Rainbows

Primary rainbows always appear in the above color sequence, with bolder saturation toward the center of the arc and fading somewhat toward the far ends. Primary rainbows always have deeper saturation than the secondary rainbow when a double rainbow appears.

The secondary rainbow of a double rainbow appears outside the primary rainbow, so it makes a much larger arc. The colors of the secondary rainbow appear in reverse order from the primary rainbow, because the light has been reflected twice inside the water droplets. It's a triple refraction - once going into the droplet, a second reflection inside the droplet, and third refraction coming out the other side - that makes the secondary rainbow a mirror image of the primary rainbow. Secondary rainbows are always dimmer in color saturation compared to the primary rainbow.

References

Wikipedia. Rainbow.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainbow

Harris, Tom. How Stuff Works. How Rainbows Work.

http://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/climate-weather/storms/rainbow.htm

NOAA. National Weather Service. How Do Rainbows Form?

http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/fgz/science/rainbow.php?wfo=fgz

NOAA. National Weather Service. Rainbow.

http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/otx/outreach/ttalk/rainbow.php

Living Arts Originals. Introduction to Colors Symbolism.

http://www.livingartsoriginals.com/infocolorsymbolism.htm

Incredible Art Department. Color Symbolism and Culture.

http://www.incredibleart.org/lessons/middle/color2

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • joanwz profile imageAUTHOR

      Joan Whetzel 

      5 years ago from Katy, Texas

      Incredibleart, thanks for letting me know about the change. My link is changed.

    • profile image

      incredibleart 

      5 years ago

      Thank you so much for linking to the Incredible Art Department. Unfortunately, we have been forced to move to a new domain. I know you're busy but would you please update your link(s) on this page to the new URLs in the references and/or Resources section:

      http://www.incredibleart.org/lessons/middle/color2...

      Thank you so much for taking the time to do this! The update will help people find our new location.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)