A photographer captured these amazing photos of a ‘horizontal rainbow’

Instagram/Cessna Kutz

Seeing a rainbow in the sky is one of those natural wonders that always amazes us no matter how many times it happens. The combination of vivid colors and its timing right after a downpour always lifts the spirit. Sometimes, though, a rainbow doesn’t look the way we expect it to — making a perfect arc in the sky.

Photographer Cessna Kutz recently encountered a different kind of rainbow over Washington’s Lake Sammamish. When Kurtz spotted an unusual natural phenomenon, a horizontal rainbow, out her window, grabbed her camera and ran outside to capture the elusive moment. Then, feeling inspired, she shared the images with her friends and fans on social media.


The unusual rainbow felt like a sign to the photographer, who has been sharing a variety of images as she isolates at home during the coronavirus outbreak.

“It almost didn’t look real and honestly these photos are barely edited,” she wrote on a Facebook post with the photos. “To me it was a little reminder to hold onto hope and love instead of fear and panic in these unknown times. Stay safe out there, friends.”

But, what is a horizontal rainbow?

The official term for this phenomenon is a circumhorizontal arc, because of the way they bend around the Earth’s horizon. A specific set of atmospheric conditions have to happen for these rainbows to appear.

“For the halo to form, the sun must be very high in the sky, at an elevation of 58 degrees or more,” according to the University of California in Santa Barbara. “Cirrus cloud or haze containing relatively large plate-shaped ice crystals must also be present. The sun altitude requirement has the consequence that the halo is impossible to see at locations north of 55 degrees North or south of 55 degrees South.”

So, it’s all about latitude, the angle of the sun and what kind of clouds are in the sky at the same time.

Kutz isn’t the only photographer to have captured this phenomenon. Instagrammer @ryo_i.g posted two images from the Japanese Alps that have small circumhorizontal arcs.


This circumhorizontal arc, or “fire rainbow,” as they’re sometimes known, was spotted over Paraguay.


If you’re looking for a copy of one of Kutz’s photos to add to your personal collection, then you’re in luck. She is selling prints on her website. You can order it as a print or on canvas. The artist will also work with the customer to customize the order, as well.

Science & Nature
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About the Author
Marie Rossiter
Marie is a freelance writer and content creator with more than 20 years of experience in journalism. She lives in southwest Ohio with her husband and is almost a full-fledged empty nest mom of two daughters. She loves music, reading, word games, and Walt Disney World.

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