eli5: Does light refraction extend to the non-visible light specturm when a rainbow is created?

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I was just thinking about how amazing rainbows are and how lucky we are that we can see them. But I was also wondering if other animals or hypothetical aliens that can see different spectra of light can also see something in the sky or is it just coincidentally just visible light?

In: Biology

8 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

It’s the whole spectrum, even stuff we can’t see. That red becomes infrared and that violet becomes ultraviolet, the stuff we see is just in the range we can see

Anonymous 0 Comments

You bet it does! The rainbow we see is a literally visible portion of a spectrum that is being projected. If a different portion were visible to us, we would see it in a different place – that’s why the colors are arranged from lowest to highest frequencies and with rainbows it should be especially easy to visualize how there are bands of invisible “colors” above and below a rainbow.

Perhaps even more fascinating, there are definitely refractions of invisible spectrums of light happening all the time around you that you’re just unaware of.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Infra red was first detected when Sir William Herschel noticed that a region outside of the visible spectrum warmed a thermometer. So, yes.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Yes, but. Water is not transparent across the whole non-visible spectrum. You get some IR cutoff at 800nm. Water transmits UV better, but starts to absorb it significantly between 100 and 200nm.

Anonymous 0 Comments

This is such an interesting question and topic. Yes, the rainbow that we know goes on well before and well after what we can see. There are many animals that can not only see different parts of the spectrum than we can see, but they even see colors that are sort of in-between the colors we see. Look up the mantis shrimp if you want to get your mind blown.

Another cool thing is that our Sun puts out the majority of its light in the form of electromagnetic waves that coincide with the wavelengths that our eyes can see. Our eyes evolved to make the best use of the available light. There is more to the rainbow than what we can see, but we see most of what is available and useful.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Not only is this true, as others have said, but this is basically how we discovered the existence of non-visible light! After Newton, lots of other scientists started experimenting with prisms, and one guy (William Herschel, same guy who discovered Uranus) decided to see how fast the different colors made the temperature rise, and he found that going just past red there was still something there causing a rise; he experimented and discovered you could reflect it and decided there was invisible light there. It was below red, so he called it “infrared” light.

About a year after this, Johann Ritter–figuring there might be invisible light at the other end of the spectrum–discovered that yes, just above violet, there was a kind of light that could affect chemical reactions. As it was above violet, he dubbed it “ultraviolet” light.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Soon after diffraction was characterized, William Herschel asked the question whether light of different colors had different temperatures. He set up a prism to diffract the light, and as a control set up a thermometer to the side of the red light. To his surprise the “control” thermometer consistently showed a higher temperature than the rest of the room. He inadvertently discovered infrared light, though he didn’t know that at the time. Just that there were invisible rays coming from the light that carried heat.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Yes, in fact, that’s how infrared light was discovered.

William Hershel was trying to measure the temperature of different wavelengths of light, so he set up a prism and a series of thermometers. The control thermometer was placed next to the one placed in the red light.

To his surprise, the control thermometer shot up much higher than all the others. He placed another control thermometer elsewhere in the room as a sanity check, and determined there was an invisible light that was transmitting heat. He called this light infrared.