A rainbow seen on a sunny afternoon following rain.
Kryssia Campos—Getty Images
By Eli Meixler
December 5, 2017

Students and professors in Taiwan’s capital Tapei enjoyed a rare study-break treat last week: what they claim was a record-breaking rainbow strung across the sky for nearly nine hours.

The rainbow, reportedly visible from 6:57 a.m. to 3:55 p.m. on Nov. 30, spanned the mountains near Taipei’s Chinese Culture University for eight hours and 58 minutes. If confirmed, it will shatter the previous record of a six-hour rainbow in Yorkshire, England on March 14, 1994, CBS News reports.

“It was amazing… It felt like a gift from the sky… It’s so rare!” said Chou Kun-hsuan, a professor in the university’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences, according to the BBC .

The natural marvel didn’t catch the department wholly by surprise: There was a nearly-six hour rainbow the previous week. This time, Chou and a fellow professor, Liu Ching-huang, were ready, issuing a university-wide call at 4:00 p.m. for photos to help fill in gaps in their own observation.

Their efforts paid off. The department captured 10,000 photos, in addition to thousands more collected by volunteers, which let them build a second-by-second record to show the rainbow’s duration.

Rainbows typically last less than one hour, but seasonal conditions in Taiwan’s Yangmingshan mountain range, where the university is located, created ideal conditions for a record-breaking rainbow, Chou said. A northeastern monsoon, which trapped moisture in the air and created clouds, along with sunlight and slower wind speeds set the stage for spectacle.

These conditions are typical in the area in wintertime, Chou told the BBC, adding that he plans to contact the city’s tourism board to make rainbow-watching a draw for visitors.

Speaking to Focus Taiwan News Channel, Chou said Taipei’s radiant skies could prove appealing to travelers. “If Iceland is known for aurora, Taiwan can do the same for long-lasting rainbows,” Chou said. “Plus, we have more colors than they do.”

Write to Eli Meixler at eli.meixler@time.com.

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