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I woul'd like to know if you will explain to my 7 year old nephew Coty...

Date: Fri Jun 26 16:01:15 1998
Posted by Kayah71
Grade level: other
School: No school entered.
City: Naples State/Province: FL
Country: USA


if he would be able to see color when flying thru a rainbow. And what the science is behind the answer. He is a brillant child, 2nd grade with a 6th grade learning level. So he will understand the answer. His mother and I like to give him things to stimulate him mind with. Thank you very kindly.

That's a fun question, but unfortunately things don't work that way. A rainbow is formed when tiny water droplets suspended in air bend ("refract") the light from the Sun back to you. Since different colors bend by different amounts inside the droplet, the colors of sunlight get spread out and you see the familiar colors of the rainbow, bent into an arc.

The reason you can't fly through one is that because of the geometry of the situation, you always have to be between the droplets and the Sun. If you try to fly towards the rainbow, the rainbow will appear to recede from you! At least, until you fly through the drops, and then the rainbow will disappear. That's why there's a legend that there's a pot of gold at the base of every rainbow; since you can never actually reach the rainbow, the legend is safe!

For more info on rainbows, try going to the "Patterns in Nature" website. They have excellent diagrams there, as well as experiments about rainbows and suggested reading. Have fun!

©2008 Phil Plait. All Rights Reserved.

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