Unusual Rainbows

My first visit to Yosemite National Park in California happened to coincide with a full moon. Taking in all the wonders the park has to offer, I listened to an evening presentation given by a ranger. She explained how, if you stand in just the right place near one of the major waterfalls during a full moon, you could see a rainbow, or “moonbow” in the spray.  I tried it as soon as her presentation was over, and unfortunately I didn’t see anything colorful as I got soaked in the process. But I do not doubt that she was right.

Now I’ve learned about another unusual rainbow source — whales. When a whale exhales, the water vapor in its warm breath condenses into droplets as it hits the colder air. You’ve heard of the whalers’ expression “Thar she blows”? That “blow” is what the whalers would watch for. And if the sun is out and the view is from the right angle, a rainbow can be seen in the blow. Who knew?

Rainbow above a whale in Monterey Bay. Photo by William Drumm via Oceana.

There is a very brief video of this on YouTube, which is included in the article “Whales Make Rainbows” at https://earthsky.org/todays-image/whales-make-rainbows/?. The photo also came from that article.

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