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10 stunning images of rainbows and their less-famous cousins

By: Katherine Butler on Sept. 24, 2012, 6:01 p.m.

Photo: NASA/Raquel Yumi Shida

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The glory of a circular rainbow

A rainbow gets its traditional semicircle shape from the horizon, which makes it seem as if it is half a circle. So when the same atmospheric conditions that create a rainbow are observed from an airplane, a rainbow can appear to be a full circle. This is called a glory, which NASA defines as an optical phenomenon that “looks like small, circular rainbows of interlocking colors.” This glory was photographed from a plane over South Africa.