What is the order of colors in a rainbow?

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unkyd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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A rainbow is made by the reflection and refraction of light that interacts with raindrops.  Depending on how this interaction occurs with your location relative to the sun and the raindrops you may see a primary and even a secondary rainbow.

The interaction that occurs to create the primary rainbow will produce a spectrum of colors in order Red - Orange - Yellow - Green - Blue - Indigo -Violet (ROY G BIV) with Red occuring on the outside edge of the rainbow to Violet occuring on the insdie edge (closest to the center) of the rainbow.

The extra reflection that occurs to produce the secondary rainbow causes the colors to reverse order.  So on the secondary rainbow Red will occur on the inside edge followed by Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, then Violet on the outside edge of the secondary rainbow.

Check the sites below if you want to see a little more detail on how this works.

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triteamdan | Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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Isaac Newton, to whom we owe a great deal of gratitude for his pioneering work on what light is and how colors combine to make the rainbow, summarized it as you have seen in other answers to this questions: Red -- Orange -- Yellow -- Green -- Blue -- Indigo -- and Violet.  However this can be a little misleading for two reasons.

1. There are actually many more colors in the rainbow than we have names for.  Our eyes are capable of distinguishing millions of individual shades of color!

2. When we think about the rainbow in the ROYGBIV colors, we usually make a mistake.  What many people call "blue" in the rainbow is actually cyan, you know, like what you use in your color printer.  Cyan stimulates the parts of our eye that see green and blue equally.  Your computer monitor that you are looking at right now produces cyan by combining equal light levels of green and blue as well.  The actual pure blue, is what Newton unfortunately referred to as "indigo."  So in terms of what colors are actually there, a more accurate summary of the rainbow would be Red -- Orange -- Yellow -- Green -- Cyan -- Blue -- Violet

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tjbrewer | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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The Colors in the rainbow order are easy to remember with ROY G. BIV




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alexb2 | eNotes Employee

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Here's an image of the colors of the rainbow in order which makes it easy for you to see how they work in order. Enjoy!

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kdmancuso06 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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The order of the rainbow is ROYGBIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet). It is caused by a breakup of white light wavelenght (all colors) when it hits water. It is refracted as it passes through the water droplets in the sky (moisture after rain) and breaks into 7 different sizes of wavelenghts. The largest of the color wavelenght is Red and the smallest is Violet. They have the different sizes due to the amount of energy they come with as they travel from the sun to our eyes! 

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selmasharafaz | College Teacher | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

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VIBGYOR: This is the easiest way to remember.

Violet, Indigo, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange, Red.

You must remember though that red is the longest wavelength in the visible spectrum and appears at the top of rainbows and to the left-hand side on a  horizontal wavelength spectrum while violet is the shortest wavelength in the visible spectrum and appears on the bottom of rainbows and to the right-hand side on a horizontal wavelength spectrum. So, reading left to right, the order of the colors is red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet:


These are the seven colours on the visible spectrum. Beyond violet are the ultraviolet rays and before red are the infrared rays.

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fact-finder | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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A rainbow is composed of the entire spectrum of colors of visible light, from the longest wavelength, red, to the shortest wavelength, violet. The order of colors in a rainbow is easiest to remember by the following mnemonic (a formula that helps one remember something): ROY G. BIV. R=red, O=orange, Y=yellow, G=green, B=blue, I = indigo, and V=violet. Red is at the top edge of the rainbow and violet is at the bottom edge, with the other colors in between.

Rainbows are created both by reflection and refraction (bending) of sunlight in raindrops. As sunlight enters a raindrop, it bends and it is separated into its constituent colors (the colors that comprise white light [ROY G. BIV]. Some of the light—that which travels at a "critical" angle—is reflected off the back of the raindrop. (A "critical" angle is the angle at which sunlight must strike the back of the raindrop, in order to be reflected back to the front of the drop.) Each color strikes the back of the raindrop at a slightly different angle, thus each color emerges from the front of the raindrop at a slightly different angle.

Only one color exits from each raindrop at the exact angle necessary to reach the observer's eye. An observer sees only one color at a time reflecting from each raindrop. For this reason, it takes millions of raindrops to create a rainbow.

Sources: Ahrens, C. Donald. Meteorology Today: An Introduction to Weather, Climate, and the Environment, 5th ed., pp. 100-103; Engelbert, Phillis. The Complete Weather Resource, vol. 2, pp. 331, 333; Schaefer, Vincent J., and John A. Day. A Field Guide to the Atmosphere, p. 163; World Book Encyclopedia, vol. 16, p. 128.

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chelsea492 | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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The order in colors of the rainbow are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.:) i learned that when u reflect light on water it creates the rainbow and that why when it rains the rainbow appear in the sky:))<3<3<3

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cheezea | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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ROY G BIV (think of this as a person's name)

Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet

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