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Pink rainbow appears over England's south-west

Wednesday August 9, 2017 - 12:04 EST
ABC licensed image
The rainbow appeared pink because the sun was low on the horizon, the ABC's Nate Byrne said. - ABC licensed

Sky-gazers in England were treated to a rare phenomenon when a pink rainbow appeared in the sky over the country's south-west.

The unusual sight, which showed up on Monday evening (local time), was visible near Bristol and Somerset.

The rainbow stunned onlookers, with many sharing photos of the "beautiful" sight on social media.

ABC News Breakfast weather presenter and meteorologist Nate Byrne said the rainbow's pinkish hue was due to the position of the sun on the horizon.

"Rainbows happen when sunlight is reflected by water droplets and gets split up into the spectrum of colours," he said.

"In this case the same thing is happening, it's just that the light going into the rain drops is mostly red, so the spectrum only has reddish hues.

"That's because blue light gets scattered by the atmosphere, while reds can move through — which is why the sky is blue! — in a process called Rayleigh scattering.

"When the Sun is low on the horizon, the light has to travel through more atmosphere, so more of the blues get scattered away, leaving just the reds which then create the rainbow when they are reflected by raindrops."

Byrne said the conditions had to be just right to produce the rare effect.

"To get a rainbow you need lots of things to fall in place — you need rain, but the sun also has to be at just the right angle," he said.

"For a red rainbow it's more difficult because if the sun is higher, it will be a normal rainbow; if it's lower, then the angles mean that you won't get a rainbow at all."


© ABC 2017

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