RAINBOWS UNDER SECOND AVENUE -------------------------- John Pazmino NYSkies Astronomy Inc email@example.com www.nyskies.org 2017 July 24 Introduction ---------- On January 1, 2017, the first segment of the Second Avenue subway opened, over some 80 years of planning and false starts. The segment reaches along 2nd Av from 63rd St to 105th St with three new stations. These are ar 72nd St, 86th St, 96th St. The line north of 96th St is tunnel fitted with tail tracks for storing extra trains. The new line attaches to the subway grid at Lexington Av/63rd St, which wasin partial operation for an other lines. A;tho this station worked only two of its full four tracks, the 3rd and 4th tracks were built behind fa;se walls and were used for off-duty moves of trains. These tracvks were capped at the east end of the station by simple bumpers or blocks. The 2nd Av ties into these two tracksand the temporary walls were removed. I rode the line within its first week of operation for a look-see but did not routinely use it then after. The line quickly filled with riders, some 200,000 per weekday by late spring. My want of a seat --------------- The route working the line is Q, which previously wither served lines in Queens or ended its uptown run at 57th St/7th Av. The Q train is my normal train to go home from work. Before the 2nd Av line opened i rode the Q uptown a coule stops, crossed over, boarded a downtown Q. This train was usually loosely filled with many vacant seats. When the Q route was extended into 2nd Av, the downtown trains were filled with fre vacant seats. I started to ride the uptown train to Lex/63, where for a while I usually got a seat on a downtown train. Ny early April this trick was no longer dependible. Ridership on the line was growing, leaving fewer and fewer deats at lex/63. I had to ride uptown farther to a point where the traindidn't fill up yet. I soon found that 72/2 was too iffy for a seat. Trains were often standing-room-only. I tried 86th St, which offerd a better chance, and 96th St, where the route began it downtown trip. I note that going home was not a time-critical trip. It was OK if my home ride took ten or twenty minute longer, as long as i had a seat for reading or musing. On the first occasion to ride farther tham Lex/63, to 72/2 on/about April 10, I was treated to an amazing spectacle! Blood and bones ------------- As I waited on the downtown platform I lazily looked at the station wall on the far side of the track. This, and other 2nd Av stations, has an island platform with up and down tracks on wither side. Along the outer wall is a broad band with diagonal red and white stripes. This is the 'bllod-&-bones' danger warning. It is attached to any structure in the subway where there is no dafe clearance for a person on the track to stand safely as a train passes by. He will be smeared into, well, blood and bones, between the structure and the train. Some stations have recesses or niches at several meter intercals into whivch a person can duck to clear a passing train. If the wall separates two tracks, the niche is a hatch to access the othre track, but a reckless retreat into it can easily pose a threat by stepping into the path of a train on that track. . The B&N band is made of some reflective material like commonly used for signs and barriers in onstruction or road works. On many stations the B&B strop causes a halo or aura when viewed face-on. This reflection is a neutral color or white, from the color of the lamps in the station. Rainbows!! -------- On that April evening I scanned the upstream end of the track to catch sight of a downtown train. This is a routine practice when waiting for a train: Is it coming yet? That's when I saw the spectale. Rainbows under Second Avenue!! Not a complete arc but two segments, splashes, of the rainbow. They were vivtdly colored and, to me, dazzlingly bright. I imagine that an unknowing witness may report a fire on the trck! The splashes are on the B&B band, not the wall. There are two rainbows, one each about 45-50 degree left and right fro a face-on view of the wall. On the band each is about 3/4 meter long! The colors are in classical rainbow sequence. The red end is towrf the nearer end of the splash; blue, farther. The pattern s a bit wrinkled, probably from the uneven surface of the B&B band. Source of light ------------- On this, and subsequent ays, I played with the rainbows. The folllow me as I walk along the platform. This indictwstat the light soutce is continuous all along the platform. it is not a chance line- up with a spot light. The 2nd Av stations are lighted by tubular fluorescent lamps over the platform edge. I applied a handheld spectrosocpe to the lamps. The present a spectrum similar to the colors in the rainbows. I walked to the end of the platform, under the last tube of lamps. Both left and right splashes remained in view. The one nearer the station end, near the end of the B*B band, was more birlliant against thedark tunnel surrounding it. When I stepped one meter farther to the end, next to the respass warning sign, the end rainbow slided off of the end of the B&B band. The band ends here because in the tunnel near the station there are recesses for escaping a passing train. Retreating a meterm it repeared. This shows that the effect is a backward reflection from the lamps farther along on the platform, more or less behind me. AAltho the fluorescent lamps run the full length pf the platform, missing only the extreme ends, they are blocked from the tracks by occsasional hang signs and station structure. The loss of light is not noticeable because there is ample lighting from adjacent ;amps. When I wlked along the platform once in a while one of the rainbows blanked out. I looked up and behind me and usually did see something overlapping the lamps. Moving away to the next, unblocvcedm tube restored the rainbow. Tange of visbility ---------------- The rainbows on each side of the station are caused by the lamps over their own tack. The lamps are bocked from view from the opposite platform. I could stand near one edge and see FOUR rainbows, two from the lamsps on my edge and the two from the lamps on the opposite edge. The nearer ones, on my side, are about five meters. The ones on the far side are some dozen meters away. I tried seeing them from the stairs leading up to the mezzanine. About 2/3 up my view is blocked by structure, but as far up as i could ascend the rainbows remained in sight. I could nt see them from the mezzanine because it offers no view of the tracks. They are hidden by walls. In general, the closer i was to the rainbows, the more brilliant and flashy they are. The farther ones are subdued, yet still quite prominent. Photography --------- The rainbows come out well in photographs. No flash is needed with so much ambient illumination in the station and the luminance of the splashes. Let the imaging device work out the wxposure or set the device to 'auto'. Weird phaenomenon! ---------------- Why were these rainbows so long in catching attention? There were previews rides on the line for the news media and dignitaries. None seem to take notice of the splashes. The line attracts 180,000 or so riders per day, the creaming enby of transt planners wlsqhere. I checked webs for announcements or essays about the rainbows i hope that some artist or nature enthisiast saw them. None so far. Some webs explain or show the artwork in these stations, some of which I at first thought were celestially inspired. Surely the splashes could be taken as some viewer-interactive kinetic 'artwork' along with the static pieces in the stations? In late June I inquired at NYC Transit about the effect. It didn't know anythng about the rainbows. it hazarded that the B&B band may be compromised by them or that there may be reports of 'track fires'. As at late July NYC Transit was 'still investigating'. I don't mind becoming the one who called public notice to these amazing color splashes that really, like really, make the stations, erm, sparkle. I didnlt start out for that honor. I merely sw a new previously unreported phaenomenon, played with it to better characterize it, and now deliver the news to you. A clue? ----- at the NYSkies Astronomy Seminars in June and July I brang large printouts of a few photos i took of the rainbows. i passed the around to show what to look for when they ride the 2nd Avenye line. They illustrate the splashes from varous viewing places in all three stations. I was floored by the reaction from the astronomers@ Some saw the rainbows in the pictures and studied them closely. These olk made it point to look form them soonest they are in the new subway line. Other astronomers astounded me with protests of not seeingg anything special in the pictures! Even when adjacent astronomers pointed out the splashes, these people claimed there was nothing but the red and white diagonal stripes. No colorations or hrillianfes. I tried the pictures at work and got similar dichotomy of reaction. Somre saw the rainbows and others wondered why I took pictures of the subway wall. My sample of people was too small to apply meaningful statistics. I may have to try at a lare group of atronomers like NEAF or AAVSO. I have NO explanation for this. The image is fixed in the printout, not a live apparition dependdent on peculliar lighting. Potential astronomy? ------------------ I gave serious thinking to this weird phaenomenon, oth for the real appariton and the printout images. Why are some peole able to see the splashes and other can not? I have to assume the inability to see them is an honest reraction and not a dismissal of my obseervations. I then realized there are astronomical implications that could aid to resolve some puzzling questions. The sky has many colored patches like parhelia, aurorae, even genuine rainbows. I skip the Milky Way because they are a threshold target in New York City even for astronomers versed in looking for them. When I learn of parheloa &c in the sky I alert the NYSkies astronomers. Usually I get only a coule positive reports. This low response can be due to busyness of the astronomer, being away from the sky, poor local sky conditions, vanishing of the effect before observing it. I now suspect that many astronomers DO look and notice nothing BECAUSE BY SOME PHYSIOLOGICAL QUIRK they really DO NOT see the effect. The ksy preents no out-of-ordinary aspect. This previously unknown condition of human visioncould have miserable condequences for observing aurorae or validating localized aerial optical effects. I don't see how a person would on his own discover this characteristic of his vision. Unless he endeavors to do consistent watch of colored patchrs, of the knod noted above, in hsi nromal astronomy, he may never know about it. It may hit him when a wide- spread aurora erupts and he hears reports from astronomers around him.Or the evening news may show scenes of ordinary people agitated by a large solar optical display earlier in the day. The astronomer knows he was outdorrs at that hour but can not recall seeing any unusual aerial activity. What to do? Since the characteristic seems to be physiological one, it may have to be treated as a 'disability' which the astronomer msust adapt to. It appears to be more than simple color-dullness, red-drop-off, red-green confusion because other instances of distnguishing color or patches seem more or less normal. I suggest a thoro ophthalmic examination for a first-cur inquiry for a particular pweson's case. Other stations ------------ It seemed reasonable to suppose that the rainbow effect came from the brand-new blood-&-bones sip in theSecond Avune line. By good lick there were two other new stations, potentially throwing off rainbows. The lexington/63 St station was reconfigured to attach the 2nd Av line to it. Ot rese,n;es the mainline 2nd Av stations except that it has a two-deck to separate the uptown and downtown traffic. I wnet there to check out the rainbows. No rainbows. The B&B strip produced a hotspot refecltion when viewed gace-on. This is a normal feature of most safety-warning materials. I examined both decks with same results, no rainbows. an other new station opened in July. This was the restored station at South Ferry on the red line, trashed by hurrican Sandy. it was thoroly cleaned, refitted with new electric and mechanic gear, and, plausibly, a replacement B&B band. The station looks about the same as it did before Sandy. it was not significantly altered except for current equipment and flood- protection features. I looked for rainbows. None. The B&N strop gave a weak hotspot reflection, esily missed at fiest sight. Fixtures and furnishings in subway stations are routinely replacement as needed, including missing, damaaged, dirty-coated blood-&-bones bands. There is no formal notice of such replacement for being part of the ordinary maintenance of the subway sustem. . I will not hunt around all 460+ stations for newly installed B&B bands. if a reader comes across one, please examine it for raibows. Conclusion -------- The rainbows under Second Avenue as at ;ate July are holding up well, not dulled by built-up dirt. Eventually they will dfade under the cover of dirt. Will thry return after a lwning of the walls? Or, just possibly, the band has some odd coating that makes the rainbbows and could be washed away. This article is a work in progress and will be revised as new information comes along. In the meanwhile, do ride into the 2nd Av line and admire its raibows.