‘Space Rainbows’ Really Exist!

Brightly coloured night sky to represent concept of space rainbows

In my second children’s picture book, I mention ‘space rainbows’.

Now, I thought that a ‘space rainbow’ was something straight out of my imagination, but it turns out that space rainbows really do exist… kind of!

The amazing image below is shown on a tweet from a Russian astronaut in January 2021.

This beautiful spectacle has been dubbed a ‘space rainbow’, but is actually a phenomenon generated by a combination of the light from the northern lights, the sunrise and the Earth’s atmosphere.

You can also see the Milky Way galaxy in the background, and the International Space Station at the front.

Space rainbow tweet from Russian astronaut

A second variety of magnificent ‘space rainbows’ are moonbows!

These are formed in exactly the same way as regular old sun rainbows, but from the light of the moon.

Moonbows are pretty rare due to the fact that they can only be seen under quite specific conditions, including a very bright moon and a very dark sky with minimal light pollution.

But when they do appear, they’re exceptionally beautiful, as you can see in these pictures.

Another type of ‘space rainbow’ has recently been discovered by NASA – and they’re not actually sure how this gorgeous light phenomenon is formed! (But I’ve linked to the actual source NASA website, so if they discover more about it in the future, the link should tell you about that too!)

Here’s a picture of this stunning ‘space rainbow’ from the NASA website

NASA space rainbow STEVE
Image from NASA website

Now, I should add at this point that NASA has not actually called this a space rainbow – although I certainly think that’s the perfect way to describe it!

No, the actual name for this spectacular light show is much more catchy and just rolls off the tongue…

Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement

To be fair, the acronym for that is STEVE, which is a little more straightforward!

Scientists also believe that it’s very possible that there are other types of rainbows in space, just like the ones we get here on Earth, but we just don’t know about them yet.

Which just goes to show that although we know an awful lot about space and what’s out there… we still also know very little about what might be out there!

Beautiful space rainbows
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