A circular rainbow? See the stunning spectacle caught on camera in Hawaii

A helicopter crew in Hawaii was able to see a rare phenomenon Tuesday: a circular rainbow. 

The field crew from the Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife chased a complete circular rainbow "for miles" over Waimea Canyon in Kaua'i.

The footage, posted Wednesday by the agency, shows the crew flying above the spectacular ring of rainbow light, viewed from the helicopter’s window. 

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A screengrab from a video shared by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources shows a full-circle rainbow that formed over Waimea Canyon in Kaua'i in February 2023.

According to EarthSky, a circular rainbow is a very rare sight, requiring sky conditions to be "just right."

"And even if they are, the bottom part of a full-circle rainbow is usually blocked by your horizon," the science and nature website adds. "That’s why we see rainbows not as circles, but as arcs across our sky." 


Palm tree surrounded by a circular rainbow, Bahia State, Northeastern Brazil. (Photo by Ricardo Funari/Brazil Photos/LightRocket via Getty Images)

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Mountain climbers and pilots sometimes see near or full-circle rainbows, as the viewer must be above the observable horizon so that the bottom of the circle doesn’t get blocked from view.

This story was reported from Los Angeles.