Rare Double Moonbow Appears Over Town In West Iceland

Fact checked
A Moonbow over Wernigerode castle in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany.

A rare double lunar rainbow, or Moonbow, was spotted last night near the town of Stykkishólmur in the Snæfellsnes peninsula, West Iceland.

Iceland Magazine reports:

Photographer Víðir Björnsson caught the phenomena on film, and posted the photograph on Facebook. He added in comments that the moonbow was actually a double-rainbow, since a very faint second rainbow could be seen just above the main rainbow. The second moonbow can just barely be made out in the photograph, but Víðir says it was well visible at the time.

Lunar rainbows are formed in exactly the same way as regular rainbows, except they are formed by moonlight. The fact that moonlight is much fainter than sunlight, and that it is dark at night makes it very hard to see lunar rainbows. Their colours are also usually too faint to note, making them look white. Therefore lunar rainbows are sometimes also called white rainbows. However, the colours always appear in long exposure photographs.


A DOUBLE MOONBOW Lunar rainbows are very rare due to the extremely specific conditions needed for their formation. The second rainbow was extremely faint, but can be discerned above the main rainbow. Photo/Víðir Björnsson.


“I have never seen this before”

The BBC reports:

It was caught on camera near the small town of Stykkisholmur on Sunday evening by keen photographer Vidir Bjornsson. “I was driving in heavy rain and so much wind and I just stopped the car because I could not believe what I was seeing,” Mr Bjornsson tells the BBC. “First I thought I was just seeing some reflection from the window of my car, but then me and my friend who was driving decided to stop and try to get a picture of it.” A second moonbow was also visible at the time, although it is hard to make out in the photograph…

The combination of conditions required for a lunar rainbow to appear makes it a rare sight, even in the dark skies of Iceland. “I have never seen this before,” Mr Bjornsson says, adding that he had “never heard of a moonbow” until now.


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