Lunar Rainbow Moon Southern California Desert
Photo credit: Anza-Borrego DRC
An extremely rare lunar rainbow, also known as a moonbow, was spotted by a researcher at the Anza-Borrego Desert Research Center in California. This phenomenon occurs due to the refraction of light in many water droplets, like from a rain shower, and is always positioned in the opposite part of the sky from the moon relative to the observer. Why does it look dimmer than a traditional solar rainbow? It’s because of the smaller amount of light reflected from the surface of the moon. Read more for a video and additional information.



To see a lunar rainbow, the moon should be low in the sky (at an elevation of less than 42°) and must not be obscured by clouds, while the night sky must be very dark. They can only be observed 2-3 hours before sunrise or after sunset. Water droplets must also be present opposite the moon. This requisites makes lunar rainbows far more rare than rainbows produced by the sun.

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Lunar rainbow or moonbow above Anza-Borrego just moments ago. Made possible by the waxing gibbous moon and some rain sprinkles above the desert tonight,” said the Anza-Borrego Desert Research Center.