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Night rainbows

Updated on June 10, 2016
Moon Bow in Kula, Hawaii
Moon Bow in Kula, Hawaii | Source

What is a nighttime rainbow?

A nighttime rainbow is a rainbow that is produced by light that is reflected off of the surface of the moon instead of the sun. It is known by several different names including: moon-bow, space rainbow, lunar bow, lunar rainbow and white rainbow.

Painting of a night time rainbow by Jacob Ruisdail
Painting of a night time rainbow by Jacob Ruisdail | Source

A nighttime rainbow or moonbow are always seen in the opposite part of the sky as the moon.


There are relatively few places in the world that a night rainbow can be seen: Cumberland Farms near Corbin, Kentucky; Waimea, Hawaii on Kauai Island; Victoria Falls on the border of Zimbobwe and Zambia; and Durham, North Carolina. These are the areas where the nighttime rainbows are more commonly seen although they have occasionally been spotted in other areas.

Yoshimite National Park
Yoshimite National Park | Source

Because the light is too faint to be picked up by or to excite the cone receptors of your eyes it often looks as though it is a white or silvery color.

Cumberland Farms, Kentucky
Cumberland Farms, Kentucky | Source

For a moon-bow or nighttime rainbow to appear several things must happen. It must be near a full moon, it must be raining opposite the moon, the sky must be dark, and the moon must be less than 42 degrees high.

Kamuela, Hawaii
Kamuela, Hawaii | Source

Lunar rainbows have been observed for millions of years, back to the time of Aristotle.

Victoria Falls
Victoria Falls

You can only clearly see the colors is a moon-bow when you photograph using long-exposure photography.

Interesting Moon Bow Trivia

Although 'Moonbows' often appear white to the eye, the colors can be captured in a photograph when using a long exposure.

As moonlight is many thousands of times fainter than sunshine the bow is many times fainter and only seen when the Moon is near full.

A night rainbow is seen most often near a waterfall.

They are relatively rare because a number of conditions need to happen such as : the moon must be less that 42 degrees high in the sky, them sky must be very, very dark, and there must be rain falling opposite the moon.

A Night Rainbow is thought to bring luck to the area in which it is seen.

Another name for a night rainbow is a moon bow which is also known as a lunar rainbow, a black rainbow, or a white rainbow.


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    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 3 years ago from Sunny Florida

      janderson00 I hope you get the chance someday to see one.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 3 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Dolores Monet they are beautiful. I'm not sure what you call the ring around the moon. some think it is related to the night rainbows.

    • janderson99 profile image

      Dr. John Anderson 3 years ago from Australia on Planet Water

      i have never seen one. I'll keep on the lookout.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 3 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Whoah such beautiful pictures! I can' t imagine what it would be to see one of these at night. Now, I've seen a sort of rainbow like phenomena in a circle around the moon, but am not sure if this is the same thing, or what it is called.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 4 years ago from Sunny Florida

      tiffany delight, I love rainbows. They seem like a gift from mother nature.

    • tiffany delite profile image

      tiffany delite 4 years ago from united states

      i think rainbows are awesome and so is this hub!! i thoroughly enjoyed all of the beautiful pics...thanks for sharing. blessings!

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 5 years ago from Sunny Florida

      KerryAnita, I've been told they are breathtaking.

    • KerryAnita profile image

      KerryAnita 5 years ago from Satellite Beach, Florida

      How beautiful! I would love to see one of these!

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 5 years ago from Sunny Florida

      vespawoolf, they are beautiful. I have always loved rainbows and was thrilled when I found out about moonbows.

      jennzie, I hope someday you get to see one in person.

    • jennzie profile image

      Jenn 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      These are gorgeous pictures! I would love to see a night time rainbow in person.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      Until spotting your hub, I didn't know that moonbows exist! We lived in Cusco for a while and rainbows are very common there. After that I became even more fascinated with them, although I've always been mesmerized by their beauty. Thank you for sharing these interesting facts and beautiful photos! I hope to someday witness a moonbow. Voted up and shared.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 5 years ago from Sunny Florida

      CloudExplorer, I love rainbows too. They are so beautiful and peaceful. I am so glad you enjoyed the hub. Thanks.

    • CloudExplorer profile image

      Mike Pugh 5 years ago from New York City

      I loved your moonbow's, night rainbow's and all, this hub is magnificent in its appeal to the senses, and it felt so serene to read through it as well.

      I enjoy admiring nature, and have since I was a young child, and so rainbows have always fascinated me, and this hub has definitely made my day or should I say my morning hehe!

      Thanks for sharing such beauty with us all, here on hubpages and this one was voted up on every level accept for funny, and getting shared no doubt about that across all my networks. Lovely images.

      Wow! oh and nice to meet ya!

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 5 years ago from Sunny Florida

      rcrumple, when you check them out make sure you take some pictures.

    • rcrumple profile image

      Rich 5 years ago from Kentucky

      Had no knowledge of these before reading your hub. Great hub! Living within two hours of Corbin, Ky, I may have to check it out. Great reading and pic's!

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 5 years ago from Sunny Florida

      drbj, I just love these rainbows. I, like you, wish I could see them up close and personal.

      vocalcoach, rainbows are so beautiful, they seem to offer hope for the future.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 5 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      Stunning! I could gaze at a rainbow, moonbow and night rainbow for hours. Having lived on Kauai for several years, I saw them all. This is a hub to return to again and again. It makes me feel good. Your photos are spectacular. I'm sharing this all over the place and voted up and completely across (not funny). As they say in Hawaii, Mahalo.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 5 years ago from south Florida

      Thank you for these beautiful photos. What a treat it would be, KK Gals, to see one up close (as possible) and personal.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 5 years ago from Sunny Florida

      New Newbie, Earth truly is full of wonders. They are beautiful photos.

      dahoglund, I hadn't heard of them until a co-worker mentioned them to me a week or so ago. The notion of nightime rainbows interested me so much I decided to wrtite this hub.

      Jenna Pope, They are beautiful. The ring around the moon reflects light through ice crystals while moonbows reflect the light with water droplets

    • Jenna Pope profile image

      Jenna Pope 5 years ago from Southern California

      Those are beautiful!!! I had never even heard about them!!! I wonder if they are related to the ring-around-the-full-moon phenomenon? Voted up!

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Fascinating pictures. I had never heard of the night time rainbows. Very interesting. Sharing.

    • profile image

      New Newbie 5 years ago

      What a fantastic place is Earth. I'm so grateful for photograhers that go to these extremes to capture these sights.

      Thank you for sharing.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 5 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Mhatter99, I understand they are beautiful. Like you I hope to someday see one.

      sofs, thank. I tought the pictures were great. I only wish I could have been there to take them myself.

      DFiducc1a, they seem to have an air of the mystical about them.

      Genna East, how lucky you are. Maybe someday I'll be as lucky.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 5 years ago from Sunny Florida

      moonlake, I've never seen one, have always wanted to. I understand they are quite beautiful.

      ChristinS, I hope someday to see one.

      FaithDream, they are beautiful. Rainbows to mean seem to hold the promise of a better future.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      I’ve only seen a nighttime rainbow once and they are an amazing phenomena. Your photos are so beautiful; the one of Yoshimite took my breath away.

    • DFiduccia profile image

      DFiduccia 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      I have never seen a moonbow, and these photos are magnificent. They’re an interesting and beautiful phenomenon I would love to see in real time.


    • sofs profile image

      sofs 5 years ago

      Amazing pictures. What a visual delight! Moonbow sounds beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Interesting and beautiful... I don't recall ever seeing one. thank you

    • FaithDream profile image

      FaithDream 5 years ago from (Midwest) USA

      I didn't realize rainbows occur at night. Great Hub! The photos are beautiful. Now I hope to see one of these live at some point. Thanks, for the beauty of rainbows always inspire me. They represent something so precious and one that glows in the night is extremely unique.

    • ChristinS profile image

      Christin Sander 5 years ago from Midwest

      I've always thought it would be neat to see one of these. Very interesting hub :)

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 5 years ago from America

      They are beautiful. We see the northern lights here and sometimes they are so pretty. I don't think I've ever seen a night time rainbow. Voted Up.