Are there rainbows in space?

  1. Sep 23, 2013 #1
    My friend's son (age 5) absolutely loves space. It's great to see such a strong interest in science in kids that age. He calls me the astronaut guy since I told him I've wanted to be an astronaut since I was a kid, and that I also love space. We recently shared a discussion about the planets of the solar system, and how Earth is the only planet to have liquid water on its surface. I guess he had recently learned about rainbows in school, and knew that it was the water vapor in the atmosphere that allowed us to see rainbows after a storm. He told me he was sad because there was no water in space, and therefore there weren't any rainbows in space.

    Now I know water exists in space, but as ice and gas rather than liquid water due to pressure and temperature limitations. His comment made me realize that I had never thought about whether rainbows exist in space outside of a planet's atmosphere. I suppose all a rainbow requires is a transparent material to refract the light, and ice water in space could certainly do that. Have we ever imaged a "space rainbow" before?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 23, 2013 #2


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  4. Sep 23, 2013 #3


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    No, the crystalline structure would not reflect/refract light in any systematic way, as water droplets in the air do so that wouldn't work.
  5. Sep 23, 2013 #4

    Ice hexagonal crystals do form various haloes in atmosphere, like the 22 degree rings. Do these also work in space?
  6. Sep 23, 2013 #5
    We have increasing evidence of other 'planets' with liquid water.....any mass in space with atmospheric humidity can potentially have a rainbow....of course you need sunlight too.
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