Moonbows and Meteor Showers

Moonbow in Lower Yosemite Falls by Edie Howe-Byrne
Moonbow in Lower Yosemite Falls by Edie Howe-Byrne
The full moon is coming this Saturday, May 9, and full moons are always a special event in Yosemite, but in spring time, you also add the magic of the moonbows in Yosemite Falls.

Walking through the Valley under a full moon is a sublime and otherworldly experience. The silvery light bounces off the granite walls and filters through the trees. Just that is worth staying up late and venturing out into the not so warm nights. But when the angles are all just right, and there is enough water in Yosemite Falls, moonbows appear.

A group from Texas State University has done the calculations to predict when the Yosemite Falls moonbows will be seen. This year, it seems like they have added another viewing location to their predictions. In addition to the viewing area next to the bridge at the base of Lower Yosemite Fall, they recommend times to visit the Sentinel Bridge parking area to view moonbows in Upper Yosemite Fall as well.

The moonbows usually appear to the naked eye as arcs of silvery light, but with the right technique, photographers can capture all the colors of the rainbow in that arc. It’s a challenging shot – to capture the ambiance of the moonlight, and the last time I went I knew that I didn’t have the right equipment or the expertise to even try, so I stood in awe and just watched. Magic is magic. You don’t HAVE to be looking through a camera lens to appreciate that.

Plus, there is a meteor shower coming up that peaks tomorrow morning (May 6). The Aquarid Meteor Shower comes from the tail of Halley’s comet, and seems to emanate from the constellation of Aquarius. The display is most prominent in the Southern Hemisphere, but even those of us up north can enjoy it when Aquarius peeks above the horizon around 2-2:30 am. For extra incentive, the shooting stars that we do see will likely be Earthgrazers – long slow spectacular streaks of light from meteorites that skim across the upper atmosphere.

[Thanks to Edie for being willing to share her beautiful photography. See more of her photography at]