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Journal of the Optical Society of America

Journal of the Optical Society of America

  • Vol. 69, Iss. 8 — Aug. 1, 1979
  • pp: 1083–1089

Angular scattering and rainbow formation in pendant drops

Kenneth Sassen  »View Author Affiliations

JOSA, Vol. 69, Issue 8, pp. 1083-1089 (1979)

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Angular scattering measurements obtained with a polar nephelometer employing a linearly polarized laser source are used to examine the general scattering behavior and rainbow generation of pendant water drops, a type of near-spherical particle that has certain similarities to the shape of distorted raindrops. Comparison of the experimental data with theoretical predictions of spherical drop scattering reveals that in many respects the near-spherical particles behave like spheres when the measurements are performed in the horizontal scattering plane, the plane in which the drops display circular cross sections. Furthermore, the angular positions of the rainbow intensity maxima corresponding to the main rainbow peak and supernumerary bows are shown to be predicted accurately by the approximate Airy theory for both the primary and secondary rainbows. Pendant drops whose shapes are significantly elongated in the vertical direction are indicated to generate anomalously strong rainbows from three or more internal reflections. The implications of these findings to rainbow formation in the atmosphere are discussed.

© 1979 Optical Society of America

Kenneth Sassen, "Angular scattering and rainbow formation in pendant drops," J. Opt. Soc. Am. 69, 1083-1089 (1979)

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  1. These dissimilar approaches to the treatment of the rainbow have also long been a source of conflict. The poets have been highly critical of attempts to quantify the rainbow in mathematical terms, while scientific observers have in turn drawn attention to inaccuracies in the artistic renderings of the rainbow. We would like to express our sentiment that the search for an understanding of the processes involved in rainbow formation and for the representation of their proper structure does not detract from the pleasure of observing a splendid rainbow. Au contraire!
  2. See H. M. Nussenzveig, "The theory of the rainbow," Sci. Am. 236, 116–127 (1977), for an interesting review of the history and significance of rainbow theories.
  3. G. B. Airy, "On the intensity of light in the neighborhood of a caustic," Trans. Cambridge Philos. Soc. 6, 379–402 (1838).
  4. H. C. van de Hulst, Light Scattering From Small Particles (Wiley, New York, 1957).
  5. V. Khare and H. M. Nussenzveig, "Theory of the rainbow," Phys. Rev. Lett. 33, 976–980 (1974).
  6. F. E. Voiz, "Some aspects of the optics of the rainbow and the physics of rain," in Physics of Precipitation, edited by Helmut Weickmann (American Geophysical Union, Washington, D.C., 1960), pp. 280–286.
  7. A. B. Fraser, "Inhomogeneities in the color and intensity of the rainbow," J. Atmos. Sci. 29, 211–212 (1972).
  8. H. R. Pruppacher and K. Beard, "A wind tunnel investigation of the internal circulation and shape of water drops falling at terminal velocity in air," Q. J. R. Meteorol. Soc. 96, 247–256 (1970).
  9. R. A. R. Tricker, Introduction to Meteorological Optics (American Elsevier, New York, 1970).
  10. K. Sassen and K. N. Liou, "Scattering of polarized laser light by water droplet, mixed phase, and ice crystal clouds: I. Angular scattering patterns," J. Atmos. Sci. 36, 838–851 (1979).
  11. K. Sassen, "Optical backscattering from near-spherical water, ice, and mixed phase drops," Appl. Opt. 16, 1332–1341 (1977).
  12. F. Bashforth and J. C. Adams, An Attempt to Test the Theory of Capillary Action (Cambridge University, London, 1883).
  13. S. Fordham, "On the calculation of surface tension from measurements of pendant drops," Proc. R. Soc. London Sect. A 194, 1–16 (1948).
  14. H. R. Pruppacher and R. L. Pitter, "A semi-empirical determination of the shape of cloud and rain drops," J. Atmos. Sci. 28, 86–94 (1971).
  15. A. W. Green, "An approximation for the shapes of large raindrops," J. Appl. Meteorol. 14, 1578–1583 (1975).
  16. K. N. Liou and J. E. Hansen, "Intensity and polarization for single scattering by polydisperse spheres: A comparison of ray optics and Mie theory," J. Atmos. Sci. 28, 995–1004 (1971).
  17. As described in Ref. 11, the backscattering efficiency of pendant drops from 178°–180° is typically somewhat enhanced in comparison with freely falling raindrops of the same diameter.
  18. W. J. Humphreys, Physics of the Air, 2nd ed. (McGraw-Hill, New York, 1929).
  19. Although van de Hulst (loc. cit.) states that values of h are constant for a given rainbow order, these values are a weak function of the incident light wavelength owing to the slight dependence of the refractive index of water on the visible wavelength (see Ref. 18).
  20. M. Minnaert, The Nature of Light and Color in the Open Air (Dover, New York, 1954).

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