One can have numerous aspirations for the year 2024: a desire for life-changing experiences, pursuing new job opportunities, embarking on a running journey, or even delving into the realm of a new language.
However, why not venture into the contemplation of one of the rarest astronomical phenomena: the moonbow, or lunar rainbow? An experience that goes beyond conventional resolutions, providing a nocturnal encounter with celestial magic and the enchanting hues of a nighttime rainbow.
Rainbow or moonbow?
What is a rainbow?
A rainbow is a colorful optical phenomenon resulting from the dispersion of sunlight by water droplets suspended in the atmosphere. When the white light from the sun passes through these droplets, it splits into different wavelengths, forming a spectrum of colors ranging from red to violet. The observation of a rainbow typically occurs after rain when water droplets act as natural prisms, creating this characteristic sequence of vibrant hues in the sky.
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What is a moonbow?
The moonbow, or lunar rainbow, is an atmospheric phenomenon similar to the rainbow, but it occurs at night and is caused by the moon’s light rather than the sun. Water droplets or aerosol particles suspended in the air diffract the moonlight, creating a faintly colored arc in the night sky. Moonbows are generally weaker and exhibit softer hues than daytime rainbows due to the moon’s lower brightness. It is also said that the color of the moonbow depends on the humidity of the air: the smaller the water droplets, the less intense the colors. This phenomenon is often observed in places where the moonlight is particularly bright and under favorable atmospheric conditions.
Fun fact: moonbows are mentioned in Aristotle’s Meteorology, a phenomenon that has always fascinated humankind!
The moonbow is more easily visible during the bright phases of the moon, especially around the full moon. To help you plan your next moonbow contemplation, you can refer to the dates of the full moons in 2024. It is said that moonbows are visible one or two days before and after the full moon.
Let’s not lie: witnessing a moonbow is nothing short of a miracle.
The moon must be low in the sky (42° or lower).
The sky must be cloudless.
The night must be very dark.
Water droplets (rain, particles) must be in the air. This gives you a window of about two or three hours between sunset and sunrise, and when the conditions align!
Where can you see a moonbow?
The conditions to see a moonbow are numerous, and the places to observe one are… limited! We know several renowned locations for moonbow sightings:
S. regions with waterfalls: Niagara Falls, Yosemite National Park, Cumberland Falls, etc.
Victoria Falls, between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The Costa Rican rainforest (Monteverde, Santa Elena) between late December and early February.
Hawaii: Big Island, Kauai.
How to organize a moonbow contemplation?
We’ve seen that moonbows are more easily visible in humid places, near waterfalls, or in the rainforest. These locations are often very natural and wild, so it’s better to prepare for your visit.
Firstly, we recommend not going alone. It’s always preferable not to be alone in an unfamiliar and wild place, and what a beautiful memory if a moonbow appears! A true moment of communion with nature and your companion. You can also activate the GPS on your mobile phone, one can never be too careful!
Next, moonbows appear on very dark nights. Don’t forget your flashlight to navigate the steep paths. Also, it’s advisable to wear a waterproof and windproof coat to protect yourself from the nighttime weather.
Finally, you can bring your camera or photography equipment to capture the most professional and high-quality photos. You might need some photography knowledge to take the best shots. Victoria Fall Guide website advises: “On cameras with manual settings, first you need to mount it on a sturdy tripod, then you need to crank up the ISO to around 800 to 1000. Set the aperture to the fastest your lens allows (about 2.4) and then experiment with shutter speeds, but 8 to 15 seconds seems to work well. This will give you brighter rainbows than you can see with the naked eye and a silky water effect. The photographs will almost appear like daytime, but with stars, as with the photo below.”
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How to act in front of a moonbow?
There are no rules to follow when you see a moonbow. You have the freedom to act as you wish and as you dream. If your simple desire is to check off an item on your bucket list and take a photograph, go for it! But if you want to tap into the power of the moon and the cosmos, you can do that too!
Feel the profound connection with the Earth as your feet anchor firmly into the soil, establishing a powerful link with the energy of nature. Maintain an upright posture, allowing your gaze to get lost in the magnificence of the moon and the dancing moonbow in the celestial darkness. Let your heart express itself through a sincere prayer or a meaningful mantra, allowing your intentions to blend with the mystical light that surrounds you. Open yourself to this luminous energy, letting its strength penetrate you, enveloping you in its transcendent power.
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