Rainbows Around The Moon Meaning Exposed

Gazing up at a rainbow-ringed moon invokes a sense of wonder and mystery. The vibrant colors arc across the night sky, surrounding the moon in a halo of light. Though a common natural phenomenon, lunar rainbows have inspired mythology and spiritual meaning across cultures. Understanding the science behind moon rainbows reveals the symbolism and significance behind these special night sky sights.

Lunar rainbows, also called moon bows, form through the same process that creates rainbows during the day. When moonlight passes through moisture in the atmosphere, like rain or fog, the light refracts and separates into the color spectrum. The colors then arc across the sky, with the moon at the center rather than the sun. Because moonlight is much dimmer than sunlight, lunar rainbows appear with pale, spectral colors rather than the vivid primary rainbow hues.

What Causes Rainbows Around The Moon

Three key ingredients are needed to form a rainbow around the moon: moonlight, water droplets, and the correct viewing angle. When these conditions align at night, a moonbow may emerge.

Moonlight interacts with water droplets suspended in the atmosphere, such as in fog, mist, rain, or spray from a waterfall. The light enters the droplet, slows down and refracts, reflects off the back of the drop, then refracts again on the way out. This process separates moonlight into its color spectrum. The angle between the light source, droplet, and viewer’s eye determines if a rainbow will form.

A lunar rainbow requires a specific 40-42 degree angle between the light source (the moon), the water droplets, and the observer’s line of sight. The colors scatter across the night sky in an arc, with the moon at the center rather than the sun like in a typical daytime rainbow. Moonbows form most often near full moons when moonlight is brightest.

Moonbow vs Rainbow Differences

  • Moonbows appear with pale, spectral colors while rainbows show vivid primary colors.
  • Lunar rainbows arc around the moon, while rainbows have the sun behind them.
  • Moonbows are visible at night, rainbows form during daytime.
  • Moonlight is weaker than sunlight, resulting in dimmer moonbow colors.

While lunar rainbows follow the same optics principles as rainbows, the different light source results in key differences in their appearance. Moonbows show inverted and more delicate colors compared to rainbows.

Common Myths and Legends About Moon Rainbows

Throughout history, cultures around the world have shared folklore and mythology related to lunar rainbow symbolism:

Greek Mythology

In Greek myths, moonbows were said to be created by Artemis, goddess of the moon. The lunar rainbows were viewed as a sign of her benevolence and favor.

Native American Legends

Some Native American tribes considered moonbows a sign of good fortune. Spotting a lunar rainbow was believed to bring about a month of cooler temperatures, timely rainfall, and bountiful hunting.

Asian Folklore

In parts of Asia, the colors and orientation of the moonbow carry meaning. If the red end of the spectrum points up, it signifies fortune or an abundant harvest. When the violet end points up, it foretells misfortune.

Hawaiian Mythology

According to Hawaiian myths, lunar rainbows represent gods and goddesses descending to Earth on threads of moonlight.

While not based in science, these legends reveal how lunar rainbows captured people’s imaginations across cultures as mysterious night sky occurrences.

Decoding the Symbolic Meaning of Lunar Rainbows

Beyond the folklore, many philosophical meanings have been associated with moonbow symbolism based on the lunar and color elements.

Connections Between Moon and Rainbows

The moon and rainbows on their own hold deeply symbolic significance across cultures historically. Bringing these two elements together in a moonbow amplifies the possible meanings.

The moon symbolizes light in darkness, transition, illusion, insight, dreams, influence, and femininity or motherhood because of its connection to tides and cycles. Meanwhile, rainbows represent hope, promise, good fortune, spirit, illumination, and harmony. When combined as one, a moonbow takes on amplified meaning related to these qualities.

Color Meanings in a Lunar Rainbow

The spectral color sequence of a moonbow also carries meaning:

  • Red signifies passion, vibrancy, root chakra energy
  • Orange represents creativity, confidence, sacral chakra energy
  • Yellow embodies intellect, positivity, solar plexus chakra energy
  • Green indicates healing, growth, heart chakra energy
  • Blue signifies calm, intuition, throat chakra energy
  • Violet symbolizes wisdom, imagination, third eye chakra energy

When combined in a moonbow, these colors create a visual representation of balancing the mind, body, and spirit. A lunar rainbow’s pale pastel coloring can also represent the quiet power of the moon’s glow.

Transformative Symbolism

As an unusual night sky phenomenon, a moonbow can symbolize transformation or special visions. By day, a rainbow is familiar; by moonlight, it turns magical. Just as the moon undergoes phases of change, a moonbow represents the changing nature of things.

Lunar rainbows are temporary events that rely on specific environmental conditions. Here are some tips for capturing photos if you’re lucky enough to spot one:

  • Use a camera with manual settings and the ability to adjust shutter speed, ISO, and aperture.
  • Use a tripod for stability and low light settings with high ISO and wide aperture.
  • Compose the photo to include the full arc of the moonbow.
  • Take bracketed exposures to ensure a properly balanced photo.
  • Share your moonbow photo on social media to document the fleeting sight.

Spotting a moonbow is a rare privilege. Photographing the spectacle both creates lasting memories and allows you to share the ethereal experience with others.

A rainbow around the moon is a mysterious natural phenomenon with roots in spiritual symbolism across cultures. The unusual sight invites pause and contemplation about the beauty and magic that exists in the world around us, if we simply look up. Though moonbows may seem like illusions, they offer real insight into the relationship between science, nature, and imagination.