Smiling skies – rare ‘upside-down’ rainbow over Hartlepool

The upside-down rainbow over Elwick
The upside-down rainbow over Elwick

THE skies appeared to be smiling when this rare phenomenon happened over the town.

A rare “upside-down” rainbow was spotted in the sky over Elwick, on the outskirts of Hartlepool.

The upside rainbow over Elwick

The upside rainbow over Elwick

The circumzenithal arc, or Bravais’ arc, was photographed by Elwick resident Sacha Bedding.

Created by sunlight bouncing off ice crystals high in the atmosphere, it is hard to spot inverted rainbows as they appear so high in the sky.

A Met Office spokesman said: “They are seen relatively rarely in the UK but the more defined they are, the rarer they are.”

The phenomenon or “smile in the sky” only occurs when thin wispy cirrus clouds, made of ice crystals, are at a specific angle to the sun, according to the Met Office.

“Cirrus clouds normally form at between 18,000 and 40,000ft,” said the spokesman.

“So circumzenithal arcs appear much higher in the sky and are usually obscured by clouds.

“You have to be in the right spot to see them, so they are rarer to see than rainbows and halos.”

Sacha was dropping off his two youngest children, Millie, nine, and five-year-old Zac, at Elwick’s St Peter’s Primary School when he spotted the unusual rainbow yesterday morning.

Sacha, who is married to Nina and is the manager of the Wharton Annexe, in the Dyke House area of town, said: “I looked up and thought ‘why is that upside down?’

“I’ve never seen anything like it before and I’m 42 in December, it’s quite unusual.”

Sacha, who is also dad to Joshua, an 11-year-old High Tunstall College of Science student, added: “A family has just moved into the village from Australia and there were a few ‘Down Under’ upside-down jokes that it must make them feel like home.

“Everybody was quite surprised by it, it was quite a talking point in the village.”