I read with interest an article in the Toronto Star this past Sunday about Niagara Falls Moonbow or as others call it, the Lunar Bow (Luna is Latin for moon). It was written by Ernest Sternberg, a professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Buffalo.
In the article he says a moonbow-a nighttime rainbow-formed when a full moon’s rays reflect water particles in the mist. This is the rarest of atmospheric phenomena, a shimmering silvery-white arch or bow.
In the 19th-century visitors to Niagara Falls often saw these moonbows when there was a full moon and little light in the sky. It was best scene from the U.S. side of the border from a small island called Luna Island. The island separates the American Falls from the Bridle Veil Falls. That’s how Luna Island got its name.
A 19th-century visitor, William Barham wrote in Descriptions of Niagara (1847),” The lunar bow, seen at night, in the time of the full moon, appears like a brightly illuminated arch, reaching from side to side, and is an object of great attraction”.
Professor Sternberg says we no longer see moonbows because there is now too much light in the surrounding atmosphere of the falls. He goes on to make an argument that businesses around the falls should reduce the light in the air when the moon is full putting the falls in the dark an evening or so. Who knows we might just again she the elusive moonbow.
Sternberg says, “What finer honeymoon memory than a kiss under the moonbow?”
If you check out the Niagara Falls history section of libraries on both sides of the Niagara border you’ll see plenty of sketches of this lunar bow over Niagara Falls.
The photo above is of a moonbow at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.