Moonbows occur when light is refracted through water droplets, in exactly the same way as a rainbow. However, the main difference is the light source. A moonbow gets its light from sunlight reflecting off the Moon, rather than directly from the Sun.


As they are produced when there is much less light, they are a lot harder to spot with the naked eye, and often appear as just a white ring. This also makes them harder to photograph.

And because there is more light around when the Moon is at its fullest, moonbows are easier to spot during a full Moon phase.

We have pulled together some great images from around the world so you can see this natural wonder for yourselves.

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

A lunar rainbow or a moonbow on the Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, observed within 2 days of the full moon. Since the lunar rainbows are much fainter than the daytime ones, long-time camera exposure is required to capture one in a photograph. Photo by Getty Images

Narvik, Norway

This moonbow during a full moon was photographed at the high altitude Skjomen area, near Narvik, Norway. This area is 900m above sea level, and there are several big lakes that heat up during the summer months. As they cool, they produced a lot of fog, which is a feature of this image. Photo by Frank Olsen/Getty Images

Unknown location, USA

This photo shows a meteor and a moonbow photographed during a full moon in the USA. The combination of a moon bow with a meteor travelling through makes this image very rare. Photo by Acoll123/Getty Images

Isle of Skye, UK

A woman observes a very rare moonbow during the night above Staffin bay, Isle of Skye, United Kingdom in 2019. Photo by Lukassek/Shutterstock

Hawaii, USA

A moonbow seen over the town of Kihei, seen from Kula, on Maui, Hawaii, USA. Photo by Arne Kaiser/Wikipedia

Skogafoss Waterfall, Iceland

Skogafoss Waterfall photographed at night, lit by moonlight and thus creating a moonbow, Iceland. Photo by Alamy

More images from Science Focus:

Portsmouth, UK

A Moonbow with Jupiter visible is seen in this image, photographed in Portsmouth, UK. Moonbows were mentioned in Aristotle's Meteorology (circa 350 BC). Photo by Flashspix/Alamy Live Ne

Kilauea volcano, Hawaii, USA

An amazing photo of lava flow from Kilauea volcano, Hawaii, USA, with a moonbow appearing as a backdrop. Photo by CJ Kale/Alamy

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James CutmorePicture Editor, BBC Science Focus

James Cutmore is the picture editor of BBC Science Focus Magazine, researching striking images for the magazine and on the website. He is also has a passion for taking his own photographs