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Standing in the Light: Rainbow Symphony Blog

How Solar Activity Can Change the Earth's Climate

solar activity and climate

Whether you’re watching the sunrise from your back porch or you’re basking in the Sun’s rays at the beach, it’s easy to take for granted the consistency of the Sun and its relationship to the Earth. It rises and sets each day and night, and while you can never really count on the weather, the seasons come and go in roughly the same pattern each year.

The Earth’s climate, however, does evolve over the course of generations –– millennia, even. And you might not realize it lying on a towel in the sand, but changes in the behavior of the Sun can contribute to that evolution. So, how are solar activity and climate connected? According to scientists, even small fluctuations in solar activity can have an impact here on Earth, altering climate and weather in complex and unexpected ways.

Let’s take a look at how and why the Sun and its activity affects the Earth’s climate.

A Constant Star

solar cycles and climate

Relative to other stars in the galaxy, our Sun is considered a comparably constant star. While some stars vary in size, brightness, and the amount of energy they produce, the Sun remains fairly stable; the amount of light created by the Sun only changed by about 0.1 percent over the course of an 11-year-long solar cycle tracked by researchers.

However, that tiny fraction of variation –– that seemingly insignificant 0.1 percent –– suddenly becomes far more significant when you take into account the fact that the light produced by the Sun is responsible for approximately 2,500 times as much energy as every other energy source on Earth combined.

National Research Council (NRC) wanted to know more about solar activity and climate, so they brought together scholars and experts in astronomy, physics, chemistry, and more. Their assignment was to study solar cycles and climate and try to determine some of the ways that changes in the Sun’s behavior might affect Earth.

Their findings were complicated in nature, to say the least! One example they came up with for how solar activity could affect climate pertained to the reduction of the ozone layer. If the Sun’s emittance of cosmic rays triggered a reduction in ozone levels, this would change the behavior of the atmosphere. That could, in turn, change the course of storms along the surface of the Earth.

This is due to the connection between ozone and temperature; when ozone is reduced, it cools the stratosphere. This creates a greater contrast in temperatures between the polar regions and the central tropics. This prompts an instability in the atmosphere moving west to east and changing the course of jet streams –– and any weather associated with them.

The Maunder Minimum

Scientists have dubbed the period between the late 17th to early 18th century as the Little Ice Age due to the especially cold winters experienced in the Americas and across Europe. Some scientists speculate that the “Maunder Minimum,” a 70-year stretch during which there were a below-average number of sunspots, could have contributed to the unusually cold temperatures, as the lack of sunspots is indicative of a lower production in ultraviolet radiation.

Some researchers wonder if we are approaching yet another Maunder Minimum, because the current solar cycle is the weakest it has been in over half a century. If that is the case, researchers believe it is more important than ever to understand the link between solar cycles and climate, as this could impact global weather patterns for years to come.

Solar Activity and Climate Change

disruptions and variations

Despite the fact that the Sun provides the vast majority of energy and heat for Earth, disruptions and variations in solar activity are not responsible for the greenhouse gas-related global warming that has been measured in the past several decades.

According to scientists, the Sun certainly has the potential to cause enormous fluctuations in Earth’s climate –– but luckily for us, it doesn’t really do so. Rather, the Sun remains fairly stable in terms of its radiation output, and therefore, does not cause extreme changes in climate with any frequency.

One could imagine the challenges of living near a less stable star; more extreme changes in solar activity and climate would make life on that planet very different –– and unpredictable! All the more reason for those of us here on Earth to meet the current challenges of climate change while there is still time.

Scientists hope that investment will still be made in space technology and imaging devices, such as radiometric imagers, to better understand solar activity, solar cycles and climate.

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Continue Your Study of the Sun

Whether you’re interested in gazing up at the stars, gaining a deeper understanding of solar phenomenon, or just love the way sunlight dances off of suncatchers, Rainbow Symphony is the place for you.

We’re passionate about all things light and color, from rainbows and sunsets to total solar eclipses. That’s why we carry the best educational products, from diffraction glasses to eclipse shades –– even solar filters to help you view and photograph the Sun.

Explore our blog and our store to find the resources you need to further your study of the Sun!

Solar Halos: What Are They, and How Do They Appear?


Have you ever looked at the sky and noticed that there is a faint rainbow wrapped around the Sun? This is an optical phenomenon known as a solar halo, and it can be a marvelous sight to behold! But did you know that there are several different types of these halos, and each one has its own unique characteristics and causes?

Let’s take a look at what causes these halos in the first place, the different types of halos that occur, and explore ways you can study these amazing events even further.

What Causes Solar Halos?

So, what causes solar halos? You may be surprised to learn that the answer is ice crystals! When the weather conditions are just right, ice crystals become suspended in the upper atmosphere, typically within cirrus, or wispy, clouds.

When sunlight hits these ice crystals, light is reflected, refracted, and dispersed through the prism of the crystal, where it is bent at a 22° angle. This separates the light into its individual colors of the spectrum –– the same principles of light behavior which cause traditional rainbows to occur after a rain shower. As with rainbows, these halos are all about the position of the observer (you) to the light source.

Before modern meteorology, these halos were considered leading indicators of an impending rainfall; the cirrus and cirrostratus clouds which cause the halos often signal a frontal system on the horizon.

Different Types of Halos


There are a few different types of solar halos that you can observe, but let’s take a look at some of the most common. In addition to the standard circular halo –– known as the 22° halo –– there are also sun dogs and light pillars

Sun Dogs are bright spots that occur on either side of the Sun –– to the left, right, or both. These are most commonly observed when the Sun is close to setting along the horizon, and when ice crystals are closer to the ground (rather than floating in the upper atmosphere). In this instance, the ice crystals are referred to as ‘diamond dust’.

Light Pillars are another type of optical phenomenon that produces a vertical beam of light near the Sun. These are typically caused by flat, hexagonal ice crystals that fall through the sky like flakes. As those flat crystals fall, sunlight is reflected vertically through them, thus creating the telltale ‘pillar’.

Solar Halos During an Eclipse


There is another type of solar halo that occurs during an eclipse, one which has to do with the Sun’s corona. The corona, which is Latin for ‘crown’, is the gaseous outer atmosphere of the Sun. Although it is always hanging around the surface of the Sun, we normally cannot see it due to the brightness of the Sun’s light.

A solar eclipse halo occurs during a total solar eclipse, during the moments when the Moon passes in front of the Sun. When the Moon blocks the circumference of the Sun, thus blocking out the light being emitted by the Sun, the corona becomes visible. This halo appears as a hazy white cloud surrounding the blacked-out Sun.

Scientists use total solar eclipses as an opportunity to study the Sun’s atmosphere, from the temperature of the surrounding atmosphere to the intensity of the radiation it produces. These observations can help us gain a better understanding of the Sun’s behavior, including its impact on space travel and communication systems here on Earth.

What Causes Lunar Halos?

The Sun isn’t the only celestial body that gets to have all the fun. The Moon is capable of producing a lunar halo, too! The basic principles involved are the same: ice crystals trapped in high altitude cirrus clouds reflect, refract, and disperse the light coming off of the Moon. That is why you are more likely to observe a lunar halo during colder months and around the time of a full moon, when the light being reflected by the Moon is brightest.

Continue Your Study of Halos

If solar halos have piqued your interest and you would like to continue your study of light, refraction, and rainbows, consider picking up a pair of diffraction glasses. Our plastic diffraction glasses are an affordable way to continue your exploration of light, halos, and rainbows, and can help bring your lesson plan to life in a way that students will never forget.

If you’re planning on experiencing a total solar eclipse in the near future to catch a glimpse of a solar eclipse halo for yourself, you’ll want to be prepared. We have a wide selection of eclipse viewing equipment, including a variety of solar eclipse shades, solar eclipse viewers, and solar filters for cameras and telescopes. All of our eclipse gear is CE Certified, meets the standard for ISO 12312-2:2015 and the transmission requirements of scale 12-16 of EN 169/1992 for truly safe direct solar viewing.

Discover the Wonder

Discover the wonder of solar halos for yourself, from circular halos and sun dogs to light pillars and solar eclipse halos. If you have any questions about the diffraction glasses or the eclipse gear you need to further your education, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Contact Rainbow Symphony by phone at 818-708-8400, or by email at rainbowsymphony@rainbowsymphony.com

The Science Behind Fully Double Rainbows


Throughout history, mankind has interpreted the appearance of a rainbow in the sky as a good omen –– a sign that the storms have passed and better days are ahead; a bridge between the earthly realm and that of the heavens; or even a marker pointing to the location of a hidden pot of gold!

However you interpret the appearance of a rainbow, we now know that there is a scientific explanation for why it occurs in the first place. But if you’re especially lucky, you may have seen a fully double rainbow, where you get two rainbows for the price of one! Let’s take a look at the science behind these incredible optical phenomena!

What Causes Any Rainbow?

Before we explain the science of double rainbows, let’s review the science behind a single rainbow. A single rainbow is an optical illusion created by the reflection, refraction, and dispersion of light through the prism of a water drop.

When sunlight emerges through the clouds following a rainstorm, that light hits the water drops that are still floating or falling through the sky. Some of the sunlight is reflected right away, but some of it enters the water drop and as it does, it is refracted at the surface. When this light hits the back of the raindrop, it bounces back and once again leaves the raindrop. Only now, the light has been separated into its individual color frequencies. The result is a rainbow of color that exits the raindrop.


The colors of the rainbow are the same for everyone: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet (ROYGBIV). In a single rainbow, red is the most prominent color and appears as the ‘top’ band of color. This is due to the properties of light, including frequency and wavelength, of which you can learn more here.

Last but not least, a rainbow does not have a physical presence; it is an optical illusion and its ‘existence’ depends on the position of the observer’s head. So while the good news is that science, light, and color are endlessly fascinating, the bad news is that you’ll never be able to follow a rainbow to its end to find a pot of gold!

What is a Double Rainbow?

During a fully double rainbow, you will notice that one rainbow is noticeably brighter than the other. This brighter rainbow is called the primary rainbow. The primary rainbow, as we described above, is the result of light reflecting off of water drops once, then reflecting back out of the drop.

The second rainbow is called, you guessed it, the secondary rainbow. Secondary rainbows appear due to a phenomenon that is similar to the primary rainbow, with one big difference: the light that enters the raindrop and refracts at the surface does not escape after hitting the back of the raindrop. Instead, that light is refracted a second time, creating the secondary rainbow

The Differences Between Primary & Secondary Rainbows


There are a few key differences between primary and secondary rainbows. First, the colors of the secondary rainbow are inverted from the primary rainbow. That’s right: the colors of secondary rainbows are the opposite of primary rainbows, moving from violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red (VIBGYOR).

You’ll also notice that this rainbow is not as bright; secondary rainbows are always fainter and harder to see than primary rainbows. This is because the amount of light that is refracted a second time (rather than escaping the raindrop) is much less than the amount of light responsible for creating a primary rainbow. Finally, the shape and location of the secondary rainbow are going to be about 10 degrees outside of the primary rainbow and it will radiate at an angle of 50 degrees.

A secondary rainbow is an exceptionally rare sight, so if you do happen to spot a double rainbow stretching all the way across the sky, consider yourself lucky!

Meanings for Double Rainbows

While we always want to make sure we understand the science behind rainbows, it’s always fun to explore the spiritual and philosophical meanings associated with them, too. For example, in some Eastern cultures, the dual arc of the fully double rainbow represents transformation. The primary rainbow symbolizes the physical world, while the secondary rainbow represents the harder-to-see spiritual world.

What does a double rainbow mean to you?

Double Your Fun!

The only thing more fun than studying the science of rainbows… is studying the science of fully double rainbows! At Rainbow Symphony, we want to give you the tools you need to advance your education and make it fun to study rainbows, refraction, reflection, and diffraction. That’s why we have a wide variety of plastic diffraction glasses and rainbow glasses –– available multiple colors and styles. It’s an affordable way to continue learning for yourself or help your class understand the science behind this mysterious phenomenon.

We offer worldwide shipping, 30-day returns for an exchange or a refund, and 10% off your first order when you sign up for a refund! We also offer bulk order pricing and custom printing on our paper glasses. If you have any questions about our products or want to inquire about customizing your glasses, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 818-708-8400, or by emailing us at rainbowsymphony@rainbowsymphony.com

Science Of Double Rainbows

The Eclipse Megamovie Project: Collecting Eclipse Images for the Greater Good

total solar eclipse

A total solar eclipse is a magical event to behold, which is why each eclipse draws thousands of people who want to experience it first-hand. With the advent of the internet, social media, and the ability to connect and communicate, scientists are now turning to these hoards of enthusiastic eclipse chasers to help document the events in a way that has never before been done. By taking advantage of the thousands of people who gather to experience the total solar eclipse, researchers with the Eclipse Megamovie Project are crowd-sourcing eclipse images from regular citizens to learn more about total solar eclipses.

Collecting this data gives the researchers more information and new vantage points that they otherwise would not be able to collect. Once these images have been gathered, researchers can review them and use them to compile them together into a “megamovie” that reveals the eclipse in a completely new way.

What is the Eclipse Megamovie Project?

The Eclipse Megamovie Project is a partnership between The UC Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory’s Multiverse Team and Google’s Making & Science Team. Some of the additional partners on the project include Eclipse Across America, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, and Center for Research on Lifelong STEM Learning at Oregon State University. In other words, this is a team effort, to say the least!

But the team doesn’t end there; the goal of the project is to tap into the power of everyday eclipse chasers by collecting thousands of photos taken throughout the path of totality. This provides researchers with tons of new data points from which they can further study eclipses.

The Eclipse Megamovie Project, 2017

The Project hit a milestone during the total solar eclipse on in North America on August 21, 2017. After collecting thousands of photos sent by hundreds of volunteers, the team of researchers at UC Berkeley was able to edit together video which provided an incredible, one-of-a-kind view of the atmosphere around the Sun.

Using a false-color set of images, Berkeley students Juan Camilo Guevara Gomez and Tushar Singla were able to draw contrast to and highlight the most fascinating aspects of the Sun’s atmosphere.

At the same time, Google released a megamovie which was put together using an algorithm on the day of the eclipse. The engine was able to compile photos in real time, resulting in a megamovie being released on the same day! As more information came in, however, Google revised their megamovie until they released a final version (Version 0.8) on October 5, 2017.

The UC Berkeley team is now seeking funding to continue to improve the Eclipse Megamovie Project for eclipses set to take place in the future, including the All American Eclipse taking place on April 8, 2024 in North America. The researchers hope to discover new, important scientific findings using the massive image dataset.

In the meantime, they encourage curious citizen scientists to explore the dataset of Megamovie images on Google Cloud Open Datasets!

How to Participate in the Eclipse Megamovie Project 2020

To participate in the Eclipse Megamovie Project, you must be planning to attend a total solar eclipse somewhere within the path of totality, bring your smartphone and a tripod. You can download the Eclipse Camera smartphone app for iOS and Android, which enables you to capture eclipse images and share them directly with scientists.

So, how does it work? The app will access your camera’s photography controls like exposure and focus to take photos of the eclipse throughout the event. It will also record your location using your phone’s compass and accelerometer. You must mount your phone on a tripod to ensure a still image and eliminate the guesswork on your part. After the eclipse, the built-in link to UC Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory will easily send your photos and data to the team of researchers.

It’s a tremendous undertaking, but with your help, these dedicated researchers can learn more about the science behind total solar eclipses!

Capture Your Own Professional Eclipse Images

eclipse megamovie project video

Whether you’re an amateur photographer or a seasoned veteran, eclipse photography can take your experience to the next level. It’s a challenging but immensely rewarding effort that can provide you with your own unique eclipse images to keep for years to come

If you want to capture more professional photographs of an eclipse, you’re going to need to use special solar filters that fit on the end of your lens. At Rainbow Symphony, we design and manufacture the highest quality solar filters for cameras, telescopes, and binoculars, so you can view and photograph a solar eclipse safely.

Our solar filters meet the Standard for ISO 12312-2:2015 for safe solar viewing and offer more contrast and clarity than any other solar films. We offer a selection of solar filters to fit camera lenses of various sizes, including 50mm, 70mm, and 101mm.

Don’t Forget Your Eclipse Shades

Last but not least, regardless of whether you plan to participate in the Eclipse Megamovie Project using your smartphone or take photographs using a professional camera, you will need to use proper eyewear during the solar eclipse. Stock up on CE certified eclipse eyewear at Rainbow Symphony so you’re “totally” prepared for the next eclipse!

The Meaning of an Eclipse to Cultures Throughout History

total solar eclipse meaning

A blessing? A curse? A sign of good things to come, or doom on the horizon? Throughout the course of history, total solar eclipses have been observed in awe, as astounding astronomical events. And before modern science was able to offer us a better explanation of what was actually happening during a solar eclipse, ancient cultures developed their own solar eclipse meanings and interpretations

Let’s take a look at a few of the most fascinating ways that cultures have explained solar eclipses over time.

1. The Norse

In the Norse mythology ascribed, the Vikings of Northern Europe believed that, during a total solar eclipse, the Sun was being eaten by two wolves known as Skoll and Hati. According to legend, these two wolves were hungry for celestial bodies, with Skoll having an acquired taste for the Moon and Hati partial to the Sun. During an eclipse, they believed that the wolves had caught up to their prey. Back on earth, the Vikings would hoot and holler in an effort to scare Skoll and Hati away –– and allow the Moon to pass by the Sun. It’s a good thing it worked, too, because the Vikings also believed that if Skoll and Hati were ever able to successfully eat the Moon and the Sun, it would indicate the pending apocalypse, known as Ragnarok.

2. The Chinese

neon chinese dragon

“The Sun has been eaten.” So says a recording of a solar eclipse from thousands of years ago. In fact, the Chinese have been tracking solar eclipses for over 4,000 years! And similar to the Norse legend, in ancient China it was believed that an eclipse was the result of a dragon consuming the Sun. And, like the Vikings, the Chinese would bang on drums and make loud noises to scare the dragon away and save the Sun from being chomped on.

3. The Hindu

In ancient Hindu mythology, a rather gruesome tale explained the solar eclipse. According to legend, gods and demons worked together to concoct an elixir of life that would give anyone who consumed it immortality. When the demon Rahu decided he was going to drink the potion himself, things didn’t turn out exactly as planned. The powerful god Vishnu discovered Rahu’s scheme and had Rahu beheaded – but not before Rahu was able to take a sip of the elixir.

As the legend goes, Rahu now chases the Sun and the Moon in a fit of rage, and every so often, he catches them with the intention of –– you guessed it –– eating them! However, because he’s only a head and has no arms, he cannot hold onto them, and they pass by one another unscathed.

4. The Inca

The Inca people of South America believed that a total solar eclipse was a bad sign from the mighty sun god, Inti. According to Incan culture, the meaning of an eclipse was Inti’s anger and displeasure, and something needed to be done to appease their god. Incan leaders would gather and determine what they had done to make their god upset and make sacrifices accordingly. Human sacrifice may have been practiced on occasion. However, less extreme atonement were more common, such as animal sacrifice, fasting, or withdrawing from public events.

5. The Egyptians

ancient egypt pyramid sun

The ancient Egyptians are famous for their incredible skills as astronomers; the Egyptians are believed to be the first people to create a solar calendar with 365 days! They also worshipped the Sun and its god, Ra. So you would expect the ancient Egyptians to keep detailed records of total solar eclipses, right?

Well, as it turns out, archeologists and historians have not been able to dig up many records of the Egyptians and their reflections on eclipses. While these records may have simply been lost or yet undiscovered, another interpretation is that the brief disappearance of the sun was so terrifying to the sun-obsessed Egyptians that they refused to track them at all for fear of giving the event more permanence. We may never know...

6. The Native Americans

There have been hundreds of Native American tribes, each with their own unique cultures. But some tribes share some common mythologies about the meaning of a solar eclipse. For the Ojibwa and Cree peoples, a solar eclipse is the result of a small boy known as Tcikabis taking his revenge on the Sun for scorching him by laying out a trap with a rope. Once ensnared by Tcikabis, the animals come to the Sun’s rescue, but it’s the smallest of animals –– the mouse –– that is able to chew through the rope of the snare and set the Sun free.

Like the Chinese and the Norse, the Choctaw people believed that during a total solar eclipse, the Sun was being devoured by a celestial creature. In the case of the Choctaw, it was a hungry black squirrel. And like those cultures the Choctaw also believed that, in order to frighten him off, they need to make loud noises and beat their drums! What’s more fascinating is the fact that these cultures rarely, if ever, encountered one another; they drew similar conclusions from different corners of the world at different periods of history.

Create Your Own Mythology

Today, we have hard science to explain a solar eclipse to us. But that doesn’t have to stop you from using your imagination to give a solar eclipse meaning! The best way to do that is to experience a solar eclipse for yourself, and to do so safely, you’ll need protective eclipse eyewear.

At Rainbow Symphony, we want to be your one-stop-shop resource for everything eclipse, including educational materials and solar eclipse shades. All of our eclipse eyewear is CE certified so that you can safely observe an eclipse. Explore all of our eclipse glasses and viewers so you’re ready to create your own mythology during the next solar eclipse!