A rainbow in the full moon light!

When the sun light is reflected and diffracted in fine water droplets in the air, a rainbow arises. So what happens if the same occurs in the moon light, is there also going to be a rainbow? Well, we find the idea of a moon rainbow quite fascinating …

Let’s take a short detour into physics. What we recognise in a rainbow as an arched bow made of colourful light, are the spectral colours that develop when the “white” sunlight fans out in its different wavelenghts, which we perceive in different colours. This decomposition does also take place, when the light  is sent through a glass prism.

Now it is getting interesting, even though moon light is reflected sun light (that shines onto the moon from the sun and arrives on earth this way), but the light seems to be compounded quite differently, it is more bluish. Furthermore, it is clearly less bright. Insofar, the question remains, whether the moon light is sufficient to diffract in water droplets and to create a rainbow?

In times of the Internet, one does not have to anticipate for decades to witness such spectacle, but reaches the moon rainbow via Google. And indeed, this phenomenon exists and surprises us with its rare occurence and some characteristics:

Firstly, the moon rainbow appears less during rain, but more so where large amounts of atomised water is dispersed into the air and where it is otherwise a cloudless, clear sky: in the surrounding of great waterfalls. There are many examples of the Victoria Falls in Africa, the Yosemite Falls or the Cumberland Falls in the USA.

Secondly, the moon rainbow appears to be visible to the naked eye as a bright bow and only a photo camera is able to depict the typical colour spectrum. At least, this is what some observers report. Amongst them a visitor on our full moon pages and her full moon experience. Coincidentally, you can read that the moon rainbow can quite possibly arise together with a nightly shower of rain.

Moon rainbows are a bit of nocturnal magic. And who would not want to experience this?


  1. Yeye | 3 July 2023

    Just recently looking up at the night as is customary for me. I wondered if a rainbow 🌈 could occur at night time.

    Knowing the conditions necessary for a rainbow to form, I quickly pushed the thought away but somewhere in the back of mind I questioned whether the moon could have same effect as the sun and allow a rainbow form.

    it is indeed simply amazing to find that this phenomenon that I silently imagined in my mind is quite common.

    it is raining a lot at night here these days. So, fingers crossed.🙂


  2. Ed | 3 July 2023

    In Paris, I once saw the moon surrounded by the colours of the rainbow, like a corona. It was a full moon or almost a full moon. No rain but very humid.

  3. Shelly Brown | 2 July 2023

    They are common in Hawaii!

  4. Milka Stanojevich | 2 July 2023

    I would love to see a moon rainbow. They look magical.
    Thank you for sharing this with us. 🌈

  5. Benna | 2 July 2023

    How lovely that such a thing is possible!

  6. Lucy Kubash | 1 July 2023

    We saw the moonbow, as it was called there, at the Cumberland Falls in Kentucky. It’s been over 30 years ago but I would love to see it again someday. It was amazing.

  7. Charlotte | 1 July 2023

    Last year in AZ, my sister and I saw the full moon and I was awed by the full prism of colors around the moon. She saw a white corona. Is it possible that some can see colors? I still remain awed that she didn’t see what I saw.

  8. John J. Ferreiro | 12 February 2015

    I have seen two rainbows by moonlight. Both were in the California desert, one at Llano, California about 1959 perhaps after a rain in a distant area east of where I stood and my visibility was 30 miles or more, another around 1961. Not sure if it had rained in the area I was approaching. I believe I was driving my car on that second occasion. Both rainbows were white. No other colors visible. It was an unmistakable sight. Not a hallucination. Lovely. I wrote a poem mentioning it.

  9. John (UK) | 20 July 2011

    I have seen this 3 times over the years. On each occasion late in the evening, say after 21.00, a reasonably clear night with a bright moon and isolated showers. Most people do not even consider that such a thing is possible.

  10. Jan | 16 May 2011

    beautiful and serene

  11. Tonya | 3 May 2011

    Just beautiful

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