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April Showers May Bring Rainbows

April 18, 2016
By Robert and Libby Strong and Richard Pollack - SMART Science , OVParent

Rainbows have long been seen as a symbol of hope and of encouragement. Most people love rainbows. During April showers, you can sometimes see a glimpse of one of nature's most beautiful sights - a multicolored rainbow.

How does a rainbow form? The activities below will help to explain this beautiful phenomenon.


Article Photos

Make a Rainbow

You will need:

Glass of water (about three-quarters full)

White paper

Sunny day

Glass of water

What to do:

1. Take the glass of water and paper to a part of the room with sunlight (near a window is good) or better yet, outside on a sunny day.

2. Hold the glass of water (being careful not to spill it) above the paper and watch as sunlight passes through the glass of water, refracts (bends) and forms a rainbow of colors on your sheet of paper.

3. Try holding the glass of water at different heights and angles to see if it has a different effect.

4. More information on rainbows


Sprinkler Rainbow

You can make a rainbow even when it isn't raining by trying this activity.

You will need:

Sprinkler or hose

Backyard or safe place away from traffic

Friends and parents to play in the water with

Sunny day

What to do:

1. Turn on the garden hose or sprinkler.

2. Have your friend, brother, sister, mom, dad or grandparent help you with the hose.

3. Experiment with the mist from the hose until you see the rainbow of colors.

What colors do you see? Where did you need to be positioned to see the rainbow? Where was the sun? Was it behind you or in front of you?

Rainbows form because white light is actually made up of many colors. Raindrops are little spheres that cause the white light to bend, or refract. When the light refracts, it seems to split into all of the beautiful colors we see on rainy day with some sunshine. The colors of the rainbow are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet or purple. ROYGBIV is one way to remember the order of the colors. Do you always see the same amount of each color? Can you make a rainbow that doesn't have the colors in the same order?


Prism Rainbow

A science toy called a prism can also make rainbows. Prisms are made of glass or a material that also causes white light to bend, or refract. When the light refracts, it splits into the ROYGBIV colors. To play with a prism, you need some very bright light or sunlight. When the light passes through the prism, you can see the rainbow of colors on the wall, table or floor. If you have a white piece of paper or a white wall you will be able to see the colors better.


Be sure to join the staff of the SMART-Center along with the ASTROLABE astronomy club and Near Earth Object Foundation for the 11th Annual WV Kite Festival on Saturday, April 30, at Brooke Hills Park in Wellsburg. The festival is from 1-6 p.m. The first 100 children will receive a free kite to fly at the event. Sky observations begin at 7 p.m. at the Cardinal Shelter.

Come join in the fun and enjoy the spring sky!

Libby and Robert Strong and Richard Pollack work with the SMART-Center, a hands-on science outreach and education organization in the northern Ohio Valley, the headquarters of which is located at the SMART Centre Market, 30 22nd St., Wheeling.



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