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Fox News Weather Center

Quadruple Rainbow Photo Goes Viral: Is it an Optical Illusion or a Real Phenomenon?

A seemingly quadruple rainbow was seen around the world as social media homed in on one serendipitously-located train station in Long Island, New York, on Tuesday.

As rain dissipated, Amanda Curtis snagged a picture of what looks like four rainbows streaming across the sky in Glen Cove, New York.

However, a second glance at the photo will show not four separate rainbows, but a mirror image of a double rainbow.

Due to the proximity of the Long Island Sound, the body of water that separates Long Island's north coast and Connecticut, the setup lead to a reflection that bounced back into the sky.

In fact, a true quadruple rainbow is nearly impossible, according to AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Henry Margusity.

For a rainbow to form, a ray of sunlight passes through a raindrop, reflecting off the back of the drop at varying angles. Along with this reflection is refraction of light that causes of a spectrum of colors -- red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

While a primary rainbow is visible when light is reflected once off the back of a raindrop, a secondary and usually dimmer rainbow is spotted when light is reflected twice in a more complicated pattern.

However, raindrops are not wide enough for four separate beams to hit and reflect outwards to create four separate rainbows.

Instead, the double rainbow was reflected off the Sound and projected back against the rain or haze left in the sky.

While the steadiest rain had already ended, some showers lingered over the area into mid-morning.

Still, with just the right reflection of light needed to create the stunning display, the replicated rainbow was likely visible for no more than a few minutes.