Rainbow on Maunakea

From the vantage point of Gemini North, one half of the International Gemini Observatory, operated by NSF’s NOIRLab, a small rainbow can be seen sprouting from behind smaller peaks near the summit of Maunakea. One of the five volcanoes constituting the Big Island of Hawai‘i, Maunakea rises to an elevation of 4205 meters (13,786 feet). At that elevation, tropical clouds infrequently cover the summit, but they often roll past at lower altitude, as seen here, bringing some moisture to the dry area. These water droplets suspended in the air would typically be invisible, but their presence is betrayed when light is refracted through them. The droplets become like prisms, slowing and then separating the almost white sunlight into its component colors. The result is a spectacular spectrum of light — a rainbow — that is beautifully complimented by the red soil of the volcano and deep blue of the sky.

This photo was taken as part of the recent NOIRLab 2022 Photo Expedition to all the NOIRLab sites.


International Gemini Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/T. Matsopoulos

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Release date:Oct. 11, 2023, noon
Size:6960 x 3507 px

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