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Rainbow phenomenon sweeps over Pope Francis spectators

Shortly before Pope Francis arrived, rainbow appeared over

Shortly before Pope Francis arrived, rainbow appeared over the parade route as masses of Faithful gathered to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis in New York's Central Park. September 25, 2015. Pope Francis is on a five-day trip to the USA, which includes stops in Washington DC, New York and Philadelphia, after a three-day stay in Cuba. Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

From East Harlem to Central Park Friday evening, spectators awaiting Pope Francis took notice of rainbows that seemed to appear in the sky.

Photos of short colorful bands began to circulate on Twitter and Instagram, with some users saying they saw the rainbows as a divine recognition of the pope's presence.

Francis stopped by an East Harlem Catholic school at about 4 p.m. before a procession through Central Park and Mass at Madison Square Garden.

"Even the rainbow decided to come out to greet the pope," Twitter user @SMB930 wrote from Central Park.

"God is present. Out of the blue.. a tiny rainbow! Pope Francis is almost here!!!," Twitter user @AngelaCardenas_ added.

It's more likely the weather brought the colorful light rather than the pope, said Jay Engle, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Upton.

The metropolitan area saw a group of high-floating wispy cirrus clouds in the upper atmosphere Friday, Engle said. Those clouds contain ice crystals, which bend the sun's light into small bands of color.

"Probably what you're seeing is refracted light," Engle said. "It's not uncommon when you have cirrus clouds that they can refract sunlight."

Typical rainbows are created when sunlight passes through water droplets in the atmosphere, such as after a rainstorm, according to National Geographic.

Weather service data shows clear and sunny to partly sunny skies over Manhattan for the rest of the day. That weather pattern isn't unusual, Engle said. And there's potential for more light refraction to show up.

"It's nothing unusual in the weather pattern," Engle said. "You might get neat phenomenon like that."

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