'A gift from the sky:' Rainbow in Taiwan lasts for a possible world record of 9 hours

By Katy Galimberti, AccuWeather staff writer
December 06, 2017, 12:01:04 PM EST

After a storm when a rainbow appears, people generally know they have a small window of time to catch a peak at the colorful phenomenon.

But professors and students at a Taiwanese university observed a rainbow for an unprecedented nine hours last week.

Chou Kun-hsuan, a professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at Chinese Culture University and another professor, Liu Ching-huang, are compiling photos and other evidence to submit to the Guinness Book of World Records.

The rainbow appeared just before 7 a.m. and lasted until nearly 4 p.m., local time.

The current longest-lasting rainbow was in the sky for six hours over Yorkshire, England, in 1994.

The university sits in the mountainous region of Taiwan, creating ideal conditions for rainbows to linger longer than normal. Most rainbows disappear after about an hour.

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According to Kun-hsuan, a monsoonal storm in the area trapped moisture and created more clouds. Slow wind speeds and just enough sunlight made the perfect formula for the rainbow to linger.

For a rainbow to form, a ray of sunlight passes through a raindrop, reflecting off the back of the drop at varying angles. A refraction of light causes of a spectrum of colors -- red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

"It was amazing… It felt like a gift from the sky... It's so rare!" Kun-hsuan told the BBC.

The department took 10,000 pictures alone, and other students and faculty were asked to document the rainbow as well. The professors are confident they will have enough evidence for a successful Guinness submission.

According to AccuWeather Meteorologist Jesse Ferrell, it wouldn’t have been possible to see it the whole time if you were on the ground.

"The length of time you could see a rainbow on a mountain is only limited to the amount of sunlight and rain," he said. "If you're on a mountain looking down, you can see 'below' the horizon."

In this case, this rainbow, had it been observed from flat ground, would have stopped and restarted around noon, which could put a Guinness record in jeopardy.

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