We all love to see rainbows after some Irish rain. But how much do you really know about them? Check out our fun facts about rainbows in Ireland (and beyond).
Rainbows have fascinated humans for millennia. They have inspired poems, paintings, and songs. They fill our Instagram feeds and—if we are lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time—the camera rolls of our iPhones.
And while most of us have yet to find that promised pot of gold guarded by a leprechaun at the end of the rainbow, we still root for the popular Irish legend.
Unfortunately, it takes some patience to spot a rainbow. While you are waiting to take that perfect shot (or just marvel at it with the naked eye), read through our fun Irish facts about rainbows.
10. Rainbow in Latin means “rainy arch”
Rainbow comes from the Latin arcus pluvius and the Old English term renboga, meaning “rainy arch” or “rain bow”. The name pretty much speaks for itself.
However, just in case you might wonder where “bow” descends from, it’s a Proto-Germanic word standing for “to bend”, which was also used to indicate a curved direction or an arch.
9. Mornings and evenings are best to see rainbows
While, technically, rainbows can appear any time of the day, mornings and evenings are your best bet to spot one. When the sun is 42 degrees up, light passes through water drops at the proper angle to create a rainbow above the horizon.
When the sun is higher—or lower—the rainbow will be below and often invisible or blocked by buildings and trees. Rainbows appear in the sky opposite the sun, so no matter how much you crave a few sun rays, turn your back on them.
8. Rainbows are full circles – if you watch them from above
We are used to seeing rainbows as an arch, but that’s just because the horizon cuts them in half. If you are lucky to come across one while being on a plane—or if you have a thing for skydiving and jump at the right time—you can admire it in full bloom as a circle.
7. Aristotle was obsessed with rainbows
Greek philosopher Aristotle was one of the first prominent names to seriously dig into exploring the world of rainbows. In fact, he was the first in history to figure out how rainbows were created.
That being said, the famous scholar didn’t get all the facts quite right: In his book “Meteorologica”, he declared that rainbows only contained three colours: purple, red, and greenish-yellow. A quick look at our fun facts about rainbows in Ireland would have proven him wrong (see below).
6. Rainbows have a lot more colours than you might think
Unlike Aristotle, we were taught at school that rainbows had seven colours, namely red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. However, that’s not entirely true either.
In reality, each hue blends into the next, and according to scientists, rainbows contain up to one million (!) different colours, many of them invisible to the human eye. The glorious seven date back to Isaac Newton’s theory in the 17th century. Fun fact: In China, rainbows officially come in just five colours.
5. Greeks believed in a goddess of the rainbow
Rainbows have fascinated people for thousands of years. In Greek mythology, there even was a goddess of the rainbow called Iris, believed to link humans to immortals by serving as a messenger between both worlds.
The Romans had a pretty similar concept, while later on, the rainbow became a sort of physical connection between heaven and earth.
4. Hawaii has more rainbows than any other place on Earth (sorry, Ireland)
Given the perfect mix of showers, misty rain, and sunshine, rainbows in Ireland are common—but the most sightings are recorded in Hawaii. In fact, the “aloha state” is often nicknamed “The Rainbow State”, and Honolulu is called “The Rainbow Capital of the World”.
Rainbows are so common in Hawaii that they have become not just part of everyday life (and pretty much every travel and Instagram picture), but they are also depicted on vehicle licence plates.
3. The longest-lasting rainbow was seen in Taiwan
Typically, rainbows disappear pretty quickly, but Taipei’s locals were treated to a very special sighting on 30th November 2017: The colourful spectacle was visible from 6:57 to 15:55—that’s 8 hours and 58 minutes!
2. Rainbows at night do exist – but they are rare
We have all seen rainbows in Ireland in daylight. But what happens to them when the sun goes down? Even though they are much rarer, rainbows do exist in the dark. Just like the sun, moonlight can produce them.
The lunar version is often referred to as “moonbow” and typically looks monochrome or white. However, a few photographers have managed to actually get colourful shots using extra-long exposure. If you are one of them, we would love to see your pictures!
1. No two people see the same rainbow
Rainbows are optical illusions formed when light rays bend—and no two people can see the exact same one. Even the person standing right next to you will look at a slightly different version.
The reason for that is simple: It all depends on how the light is being bent and reflected back to you. Don’t believe us? Cover one eye and look at the rainbow, and then switch to the other one and notice the difference.