Can You See Rainbows From Space?

Rainbows are a magnificent phenomenon on Earth, causing many to pause and admire the celestial masterpiece. We’ve seen them in children’s drawings, on murals, and even as trending Instagram posts. But what about seeing rainbows from space? Is it even possible? Buckle up; we’re going on a cosmic journey to explore this fascinating subject.

The Physics of Rainbows on Earth

First, let’s cover some basics. Rainbows occur when sunlight interacts with water droplets in the atmosphere, resulting in a spectrum of colors. Essentially, this is a game of reflection, refraction, and dispersion taking place within each droplet.

However, rainbows are primarily an Earthly phenomenon due to our atmosphere and weather conditions.

The Reality of Space Rainbows

Here’s where it gets interesting. Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, a Russian cosmonaut, coined the term “space rainbows” to describe an extraordinary event he witnessed.

He observed a combined optical effect involving the northern lights, the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere, and the sunrise, with the Milky Way in the backdrop and the ISS in the foreground.

While it might not be a traditional rainbow with ROYGBIV arches, it was a captivating visual event, nonetheless.

Why Space Rainbows Are Rare

For a standard rainbow to occur in space, we’d need a set of extremely specific conditions.

Factors like the absence of an atmosphere, lower gravitational pull, and fewer water droplets make conventional rainbows in space a bit of a stretch.

In essence, the elements needed for an Earth-like rainbow are missing in the cosmic landscape.

Scientific Implications

While space rainbows aren’t likely to join the ranks of commonplace cosmic phenomena, they do have intriguing scientific implications.

Understanding these occurrences could offer insights into atmospheric dynamics, celestial light interactions, and even Earth’s magnetic field.


Can you see rainbows from space? The short answer is, not really—if we’re talking about the classic, Earth-style rainbows.

However, the phenomena observed by Kud-Sverchkov suggests there are other types of optical events that can be described as “space rainbows,” even if they differ from what we’re accustomed to seeing.

What’s clear is that space remains a frontier full of surprises and phenomena waiting to be discovered and understood.

In the meantime, you can keep your feet on Earth and your eyes on the sky, pondering what other visual delights the cosmos may have in store for us.