Abstract

We both theoretically and experimentally examine the behavior of the first- and the second-order rainbows produced by a normally illuminated glass rod, which has a nearly elliptical cross section, as it is rotated about its major axis. We decompose the measured rainbow angle, taken as a function of the rod’s rotation angle, into a Fourier series and find that the rod’s refractive index, average ellipticity, and deviation from ellipticity are encoded primarily in the m = 0, 2, 3 Fourier coefficients, respectively. We determine these parameters for our glass rod and, where possible, compare them with independent measurements. We find that the average ellipticity of the rod agrees well with direct measurements, but that the rod’s diameter inferred from the spacing of the supernumeraries of the first-order rainbow is significantly larger than that obtained by direct measurement. We also determine the conditions under which the deviation of falling water droplets from an oblate spheroidal shape permits the first few supernumeraries of the second-order rainbow to be observed in a rain shower.

© 1998 Optical Society of America

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