Compared with Mie scattering theory, Airy rainbow theory clearly miscalculates some monochromatic details of scattering by small water drops. Yet when monodisperse Airy theory is measured by perceptual (rather than purely physical) standards such as chromaticity and luminance contrast, it differs very little from Mie theory. Considering only the angular positions of luminance extrema, Airy theory’s errors are largest for small droplets such as those that dominate cloudbows and fogbows. However, integrating over a realistic drop-size distribution for these bows eliminates most perceptible color and luminance differences between the two theories.
© 1998 Optical Society of America
Original Manuscript: May 14, 1997
Revised Manuscript: September 12, 1997
Published: March 20, 1998
Raymond L. Lee, "Mie theory, Airy theory, and the natural rainbow," Appl. Opt. 37, 1506-1519 (1998)