Iceland: Rare 'moonbow' appears in night sky

A photograph of the lunar rainbow Image copyright Vidir Bjornsson/@vidirb
Image caption The moonbow appeared just before 21:00 local time

A rare lunar rainbow - or "moonbow" - has been spotted in the night sky over western Iceland.

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.

Lunar rainbows are formed when moonlight, rather than direct sunlight, is refracted by moisture in the atmosphere. They are much harder to see than the daytime versions because moonlight is so much fainter, meaning they often look white to the naked eye, although the colours emerge in long-exposure photographs, Visir's Iceland Magazine website explains.

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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