Rainbows are one of nature’s most mystical – and interesting – phenomena. No matter your age, it’s challenging to look at a rainbow and not have the feeling of excitement and wonder that only comes from seeing something genuinely extraordinary.

Rainbows have been thought to be positive omens for thousands of years. While there’s nothing wrong with wishing for a bit of luck when you see one, there’s some hard rainbow research to investigate as well!

What really is a rainbow?

A rainbow is a meteorological phenomenon that has awed humans throughout history with its majesty. It is created as light passing through the atmosphere interacts with water droplets, resulting in creating a continuum of colors in the atmosphere due to refraction, dispersion, and absorption of the light from the droplets. Rainbows occur as complete circles in theory but are commonly viewed as an arc.


Everything you need to know about Rainbow Colors

On a sunny day, you’ve almost certainly seen a rainbow after some storm. Although, in what order do the shades of the rainbow appear? What allows a rainbow to appear? We’ll go into everything you need to know about the rainbow color order, such as what ROYGBIV stands for, why rainbows exist, and whether or not the rainbow order will ever change.

What Is the Order of the Rainbow Colors?

This means that any rainbow colors you see will have these seven colors in the order mentioned above.

Spectrum of rainbow

The mnemonic system ROYGBIV, in which each letter stands for the first letter of the color names, is the simplest way to recall the rainbow color order.

ROYGBIV is occasionally written in reverse as VIBGYOR.

I’m willing to bet you can picture most, if not all, of the rainbow’s seven shades. However, several people are perplexed by the hue indigo and how it varies from blue and violet. Indigo is typically defined as being halfway between blue and violet.

Most people believe that indigo is more like a deep or dark blue than a purple or violet dye, but even this is debatable!

Scientific Explanation of Rainbow Spectrum

Newton performed several light experiments outlined in his 1704 book Opticks and found that pure white light travels through a prism. It refracts into various colors in a certain order, or what we know as a rainbow. This means the white light is not simply white, but rather a massive range of colors!

The visible (light) continuum is made up of these colors; it is the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that human eyes can see.

scattering of light

Per color in the visible light spectrum has a different wavelength, with red having the longest at around 700 nanometers and violet having the shortest at about 380 nanometers. As these wavelengths move through a mirror, they bend at varying angles, which is why the rainbow hue order looks the way it does.

Newton was the one who chose to define the rainbow order in terms of seven distinct colors—ROYGBIV. But in fact, rainbows contain over a million colors, many of which are invisible to the human eye!

Furthermore, though specific colors, such as pink and brown, are apparent to the human eye, they do not have their own wavelengths. They can only be created by mixing those wavelengths. Pink, for example, is made by mixing red, green, and blue wavelengths.

So, how does a natural rainbow—you know, those rainbows we see in the sky—come about? Rainbows appear spontaneously as sunlight passes through water droplets in the atmosphere, allowing the light to refract and replicate in the shape of an arc.

As a result, the chances of seeing a rainbow are greatest on sunny, snowy days. Rainbows often shine opposite the area of the sky that the sun is, so if you’re looking for one, make sure your back is to the sun.

Will the Order of the Rainbow Colors Ever Change?

When most people think of the rainbow color order, they think of ROYGBIV. However, as previously said, the rainbow contains far more than just seven shades.

Newton described the rainbow as seven colors, and he thought that the number of colors in a rainbow should be the same as the number of notes on a musical scale. Clearly, this is an arbitrary (and non-scientific) way of looking at the many shades in a rainbow. Many people still have difficulty distinguishing indigo from violet and blue!

So, while the real rainbow color order (the visible spectrum) will still be the same. The way we speak about it can vary over time based on how people perceive and identify colors.

Many current depictions of the rainbow use only six colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet, omitting indigo altogether.


Some Amazing Facts about Rainbow

  • There is no way to get to the end of a rainbow.
  • In the season, you are less likely to see a rainbow.
  • When light is mirrored twice in a raindrop, a double rainbow occurs.
  • Rainbows can only be seen on Earth, the only planet in the solar system.
  • The longest-observed rainbow lasted almost 9 hours.
  • The term “rainbow” is derived from the Latin arcus pluvius, which means “rainy arch.”