Quadruple rainbow photographed from Glen Cove LIRR platform

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GLEN COVE (PIX11) - For the second day in a row, rain lashed the tri-state area soaking commuters, but Tuesday morning the clouds parted, leaving one lucky LIRR rider with a stunning view -- a quadruple rainbow arcing over the trees.

"Such a lucky day!!!" tweeted Amanda Curtis, "4 rainbows=4xs the luck, right?! :)."

Curtis, the owner of Williamsburg fashion company Nineteenth Amendment, said she was waiting on the Glen Cove LIRR platform when the quadruple rainbow lined up for her and the other riders around 6:30 a.m., she tweeted.

A rare quadruple rainbow snapped in Glen Cove by @amanda_curtis.

A rare quadruple rainbow snapped in Glen Cove by @amanda_curtis.

Veteran meteorologist Jim Cantore was skeptical at first, tweeting "IF this is real it looks like 2 double rainbows," and asking Curtis if she shot it through a window.  Curtis assured Cantore, "It's real :) no #photoshop cut and paste here."

Multiple rainbows are indeed possible, however, and this particular photo appears legitimate, according to research meteorologist Paul Neiman from the NOAA's Earth System Research Observatory.  He told PIX11:

As an outdoors photographer, I am very sensitized to the issue of people photoshopping images in order to make the unreal look real.  In this particular instance, the image of the two pair of double rainbows looks fully consistent with the laws of physics, with the caveat that I was not an observer of this rare event. 

In a Facebook post explaining the phenomenon, he wrote:

This is an outstanding example of a primary and secondary rainbow (relatively common) occurring together with their reflected-light counterparts (quite rare). Allow me to elaborate.

A typical primary rainbow is caused by refraction and one internal reflection of sunlight within raindrops, resulting in a rainbow that is positioned 41 arc degrees from the anti-solar point (i.e., the point directly opposite the sun – for example, if the sun is 10 degrees above the horizon at your back, the anti-solar point is 10 degrees below the horizon directly in front of you). The refraction causes the separation of white sunlight into its component colors, with red on the outside of the rainbow and violet on the inside.

The secondary rainbow, which is centered 51 arc degrees from the anti-solar point (i.e., the larger of the two bows during a typical display), involves two internal reflections of sunlight within the raindrops rather than one, resulting in a reversal of the color sequence (red on the inside and violet on the outside). We can usually only see the portion of these rainbows above the horizon, because there isn’t a sufficient density of raindrops between the observer and the ground to see the rainbow below the horizon (exceptions include full-circle rainbows viewed from locales such as airplanes and mountain tops).

So far, so good. For the much rarer reflected-light rainbows shown in this spectacular photo, a large glassy-smooth water surface is required behind the observer. This smooth water surface reflects the sun, such that a second solar light source is generated. This reflected sun, which is located the same the number of arc degrees below the horizon as the real sun is above the horizon, creates a second primary and secondary rainbow on the opposite side of the sky from the sun, but with the center of these reflected-light rainbows above the horizon. The geometry dictates that the regular and reflected-light rainbows will join at the horizon, as this photo shows.

That "large glassy-smooth water surface" could indeed be found quite close to the LIRR station in the form of Hempstead Bay.

Despite many people on social media still alleging that it was altered with Photoshop, the spectacular image has been widely shared in less than 24 hours.  Curtis has received so much attention from reporters and New Yorkers alike, that she's even decided to offer a discount on Nineteenth Amendment products -- just enter the code "Rainbow."

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