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Lunar Rainbow

How often do you see one of these? Most likely not very often. This is not what it looks like… a rainbow, but a moon rainbow or “moonbow” taken around 8pm on 12th of January 2009 in pitch black in Wark, Northumberland (UK). Apologies for the less than ideal focus, in each case these shots took 10 seconds exposure with a handheld camera propped against something solid.

My thanks to neighbour Chris for pointing this out to me and challenging me to take a photo.

Lunar rainbow in Wark, Northumberland January 2009

I can’t overstress that this was out in the country in absolute pitch black. We were in a rush to go out and the camera batteries were flat – which is a shame because as we headed off west up the military road – again, out in the wilds, you could not only CLEARLY see the entire 180 degrees of rainbow, but notice in the photo it seems to be “filled in” with a lighter colour. In fact when we saw the whole thing away from streetlights that was indeed the case.

Exactly like a normal rainbow and again as you can see in the image, this one contains the full spectrum of colours from red on the outside through yellow, green, blue.

Meanwhile over to the east we had a full moon surrounded by clouds which again had a variety of colours you would not normally see. This entire phenomenon lasted for at least an hour, maybe more and could be readily visible to anyone looking up at the sky.

Apparently the conditions for such an event include the moon being less than 42 degrees high and the sky much be dark.

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