A Western Rainbow Rings Whipple

Photo from atop Mt. Hopkins
(Click on image above for larger version.)

This stunning photograph of a nearly circular double rainbow seen over the Smithsonian Institution's Whipple Observatory in southern Arizona was taken by Steve West of the joint Smithsonian-University of Arizona MMT Observatory (MMTO) one afternoon in late June 2000. West was standing at the MMTO on the summit of the 8500-foot-high Mt. Hopkins, looking east toward the 9500-foot Mt. Wrightson, the highest peak in the Santa Rita Range of the Coronado National Forest. The spectacular rainbow -- a rare but not unusual sight during Arizona's "summer monsoon season" -- seems to rise out of the deep canyon between Hopkins and Wrightson and embrace the Whipple Observatory's panoply of telescopes and other facilities on the ridge at the 7600-foot level, below and to the right in this image. (Mexico is to the far right, about 35 miles due south.) Most extraordinary, perhaps, at the exact center of the image (and the rainbow!), is the shadow of Mt. Hopkins, with the square outline of the MMTO building atop it, projected on the distant slope of Mt. Wrightson.