The Amazing Full Circle Rainbow Photo Fact Check!

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Was this viral photo of an amazing full circle rainbow captured by a pilot flying at 30,000 feet?!

Take a look at the viral photo, and find out what the facts really are!


Claim : This Rare Rainbow Was Captured By Pilot At 30,000 Feet!

People are sharing what they claim is a rare rainbow captured by Lloyd J Ferraro, a pilot flying over the Pacific Ocean at at an altitude of 30,000 feet.

Rainbow at 30,000 Feet: Pilot’s Photo Captures Rare and Breathtaking Sight

A rare sight was captured from the cockpit of a commercial airplane as pilot Lloyd J Ferraro took a stunning photograph of a complete rainbow from an altitude of 30,000 feet. The breathtaking image shows the colors of the rainbow in their full spectrum, arching gracefully across the sky.

Rainbows have long been a source of fascination for people around the world, with their vivid colors and seemingly magical appearance. While rainbows can be seen from the ground after a storm, it is much rarer to witness a complete rainbow from the vantage point of an airplane.

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Truth : Rare Rainbow Was Not Captured By Pilot At 30,000 Feet!

This is yet another example of FAKE PHOTOS circulating on WhatsApp and social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, and here are the reasons why…

Fact #1 : Photo Was Not Taken By Lloyd J Ferraro

Lead Stories spoke to the pilot, Lloyd J Ferraro, on March 1, 2023. He has seen circular rainbows while flying, but he did not take that viral photo.

Ferraro shared that both he and his colleague copied and shared the rainbow image on social media, but he did not take the photo himself.

Fact #2 : Circular Rainbows Are Not Particularly Rare

Lloyd J Ferraro said that full-circle rainbows are not as rare as people think, and people do not need to be in an airplane to see one – a full circle rainbow can be observed from any high vantage point, like a mountain top.

In fact, NASA featured this full circle rainbow photo as its Astronomy Picture of the Day on December 27, 2022. That amazing photo of a full circle rainbow was taken using a drone by Swiss photographer Lukas Moesch over the Lofoten islands of Norway.

NASA also explained why full circle rainbows are more commonly seen from the air, instead of the ground.

Have you ever seen an entire rainbow? From the ground, typically, only the top portion of a rainbow is visible because directions toward the ground have fewer raindrops. From the air, though, the entire 360-degree circle of a rainbow is more commonly visible.

Pictured here, a full-circle rainbow was captured over the Lofoten Islands of Norway in September by a drone passing through a rain shower.

An observer-dependent phenomenon primarily caused by the internal reflection of sunlight by raindrops, the rainbow has a full diameter of 84 degrees. The Sun is in the exact opposite direction from the rainbow’s center. As a bonus, a second rainbow that was more faint and color-reversed was visible outside the first.

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Full circle rainbow by Lukas Moesch

Fact #3 : Rainbow Photo Originated In Xiaohongshu

Lloyd J Ferraro could not have been the creator of the photo, because the viral photo of the rare circular rainbow circulated much earlier.

It appeared to have been posted in the Facebook group, Beautiful Nature, as part of a 5-photo collection of rainbows on February 6, 2023. After that, it went viral with many people sharing it on Facebook and Twitter.

But a closer examination of these photos will show a digital watermark at their lower right corners. These photos were created by someone with the user ID of 5463530014 on the Chinese social shopping platform Xiaohongshu (Little Red Book).

Fact #4 : Professor Labelled Rainbow Photo As Fake

Lead Stories asked Roland Stull, a professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of British Columbia to analyse the photo. He labelled it as a fake rainbow photo, and explained why:

It is fake. Rainbows form a circle centered around the shadow of the photographer or the camera; namely, looking away from the sun.

In the photo you attached, based on the sides of the clouds that are illuminated by the sun, the rainbow incorrectly appears to be in the direction of the sun, not opposite to the sun. Also, the rainbow circle itself appears to be incorrectly touching the location in the sky where the sun is (even though it is hidden behind a cloud), instead of the circle being centered on a shadow opposite to the sun (i.e., centered around the “anti-solar” point).

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Fact #5 : Rainbow Photo Most Likely Generated By AI

It is not possible to know if the fake rainbow photo was digitally drawn by an artist, or created by AI image generators.

However, due to the numerous examples of similar rainbow photos with the same tone and colour palette, they were all likely generated by text-to-image generators like Midjourney, DALL-E or Stable Diffusion.

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Dr. Adrian Wong has been writing about tech and science since 1997, even publishing a book with Prentice Hall called Breaking Through The BIOS Barrier (ISBN 978-0131455368) while in medical school.

He continues to devote countless hours every day writing about tech, medicine and science, in his pursuit of facts in a post-truth world.


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