First Ever Photograph of a Fourth-Order Rainbow

Seeing a double rainbow is a relatively rare treat, but how about three or four rainbows? Scientists have only reported seeing triple rainbows five times over the past 250 years, but German photographer Michael Theusner was recently able to capture this first ever photograph of a fourth-order rainbow. Ordinary rainbows (first and second order) appear in the area of the sky opposite the sun (and aren’t seen in his shot), but when higher order rainbows appear, they show up on the sunward side.

Last year, U.S. Naval Academy meteorologist Raymond Lee and a colleague, Philip Laven, laid out a prediction for the conditions that would produce third-order rainbows, and they challenged rainbow-chasers to go out and find one. Among the requirements: dark thunderclouds, and either a heavy downpour or a rainstorm with nearly uniform rain droplets. If the sun broke through the clouds under these conditions, it could project a dim tertiary rainbow against the dark clouds nearby, they said. [#]

Back in May, a photographer named Michael Grossman followed this advice and succeeded in capturing the first ever photo of a third-order rainbow. Lee’s challenge and Grossman’s success are what inspired Theusner to try his hand at photographing higher order rainbows. You can find more background info on Theusner’s blog and in his recently published scientific paper.

Whoa! It’s a quadruple rainbow! [MSNBC]

P.S. Capturing all four rainbows in one shot is exceedingly difficult and hasn’t been done yet. Now there’s a challenge for those of you looking for a difficult photo assignment.

Image credits: Photograph by Michael Theusner/Applied Optics

  • Matty

    I don’t see it. :p

  • Cam Hoff

    I can only see 3.

  • mrbeard

    i just took a street scene photo of a man at a bus stop with a midget balancing on another midgets shoulders (sadly the midgets were out of shot)

  • JulieQ

    I only see 2… wth?

  • DDW Calgary Logo Designer

    4 my butt!

  • Paul D

    That camera’s no good, it’s producing lots of rainbow moire.

  • Digital Donkey

    I love comments from people who don’t read the article. It clearly states that the other 2 rainbows are behind the photographer. Add that to the two visible on the side of the sun and you have 4. It’s a shame the photographer didn’t rotate his position and stitch the photos together into a sweet panorama showing the phenomenon in a way that illiterates could understand!  

  • Prrrrrt

    I can see 37 rainbows in this picture

  • Alrighty then…

    Uhhhh @Digital Donkey, red the headline of the article. This is clearly NOT a photograph of a 4th order rainbow then, is it. That is what everyone’s point is. He may have seen 4 with his eyes, he may not have, we have no idea. I’ve seen Bigfoot ass-romping an alien. But I only have a photo of a tree in the woods because they were behind me. But I do have the first photo of Bigfoot rear defiling a being from another world. Can I get the photo published here?

  • Michael Zhang

    I was also disappointed when seeing the photo in the articles, but it’s not inaccurate. One of the rainbows you see in this photo is CALLED the “4th order rainbow”. The rainbows you ordinarily see in the sky are on the opposite side of the sky from the sun, and are called “1st order and 2nd order rainbows”.

    That’s why we didn’t title the article “First Ever Photograph of a Quadruple Rainbow”, because that would mean all four orders were captured in a single photograph.

  • Erutancalls

      The point Alrighty then and others are making is that while you claim this is a 4th order rainbow, (and I have no reason to doubt you) the fact is we have no way of knowing there were 2 other rainbows behind the photographer.

       I could post dozens of double rainbow images claiming they were 3rd and 4th order but that would not prove anything and would not hold up in court.

       In this day of photographic forgery and photoshop magic along with fraud laden claims on all types of subjects, people are going to be sceptical.

       The article has; however, made me aware of a phenomena I was unaware of prior to this and does open the challenge of trying to find a way to capture all 4 into a single shot. A task much better suited to video but we are not videographers here, well not solely at least…   ;-)