Have you travelled through a rainbow and seen the other side? One reader wrote to our expert Robert Matthews about a childhood experience that had always puzzled him. If you've had a similar experience, leave comments below (register to have a name to make comments) or on our Facebook page.
Robert Steel emails: "Robert Matthews’s answer about rainbows in the February issue’s Q&A has prompted me to ask if science can now explain a phenomenon my teachers could not.
When I was about 10, my father took me to a park, and I spotted the end of a rainbow. It was coming down from the sky and landing in a field about 300 yards (275m) away. Being curious, I went up to it. As I approached, it seemed to move away and get fainter, but I was gaining.
Eventually, I passed though what appeared to be the end of the rainbow. I turned around, and there was the rainbow. I was looking at the other side.
It was some years later that I read in my school physics textbook how rainbows occur. This seemed to imply that what I had seen was impossible. My headmaster suggested I write to someone, but did not say who, so I did not write. Until now.
Can you explain how this occurred?"
Robert Matthews writes in response: "Over the years I’ve received numerous reports of people who say they have either walked or driven through the end of a rainbow.
The most perplexing thing is that they also mention being able to see the rainbow on both sides. This is impossible to explain if – as is usually assumed – there is only one source of light entering the water droplets responsible, namely the Sun. But if by some fluke another bright source, say, a reflection of the Sun, was also present, it’s possible that a ‘reverse rainbow’ could be created.
Certainly I’m not about to dismiss such reports as ‘obviously’ mistaken. Perhaps other readers have similar reports, or theories of their own?"