I was interested in mysterious natural phenomena since childhood, and one of them is mirages. Let's find out is it magic or just an optical illusion!
In childhood, everything seems so simple. Mirage is a small miracle. By the way, not only children think the same way. After reading numerous of different articles, I made a little discovery for myself. It turns out that people saw mirages since ancient times. And at that time, they were explained by the ordinary intervention of gods or spirits. This information is still stored in various legends.
The Crusader, which went with their good purpose to Palestine, described mirages, especially colorful and brightly. But, unfortunately, no one believed them. Well, at that time people really loved to write fairy tales about the wonders of the East.
Even before the Crusaders, mirages were quite often observed by the inhabitants of Ancient Egypt. There they believed that mirages are nothing more than a specter of the lost country that disappeared many hundreds of years ago. According to this legend, every place on earth has its own soul. And now the soul of the lost country wandered in the vast Egyptian deserts, trying to find peace.
Yes, the ancients believed in miracles. It turns out that everything is much simpler and the interference of otherworldly forces for the emergence of mirages is not necessary. In a purely scientific definition, a mirage is nothing more than an optical phenomenon in the atmosphere, through which images of objects appear in the zone of visibility, which under ordinary conditions are hidden from observation.
That is, a mirage is nothing but a game of light rays. The fact is that in the desert the earth warms up very much. But the temperature of the air above the ground at various distances from it varies very much. For example, the temperature of the air layer is ten centimeters above the ground level 30-50 degrees less than the surface temperature.
All the laws of physics say: light in a homogeneous medium propagates rectilinearly. However, under such extreme conditions, the law does not apply. And what happens? Rays simply begin to be refracted at such temperature differences, and at the very ground, they start to reflect, while creating illusions, which we used to call mirages. That is, the air at the surface itself becomes a mirror.
Although mirages are usually associated with deserts, they can often be observed over the water surface, in the mountains, and sometimes even in large cities. In other words, wherever sudden changes in temperature occur, you can observe these fabulous images.
This phenomenon is quite frequent. For example, in the largest desert of our planet, about 160 thousand mirages are observed annually.
Varieties of mirages
After the appearance of many records and notes about mirages, naturally, they had to be classified. It turned out that, despite all their diversity, it was possible to distinguish only six types of mirages: lower (lake), upper (arise in the sky), lateral, "Fata-Morgana" (a more complex type of the mirage, which still has no explanation), mirages-ghosts and mirages-werewolves.
The lower (lake) mirages
These are the most common mirages. They got their name because of their places of origin. They are observed on the surface of the earth and water (not in vain, their second name is "Lake").
The upper mirages (mirages of distant vision)
This kind of mirages by origin is as simple as the previous species. However, such mirages are much more diverse and beautiful.
They appear in the air. The most exciting of them are the famous ghost towns. It is very interesting that they usually represent images of objects - cities, mountains, islands - which are many thousands of kilometers away.
They occur near vertical surfaces, which are heated by the sun. These can be rocky shores of the sea or lake when the shore is already illuminated by the Sun, and the surface of the water and the air above it are still cold. This kind of mirages is a very frequent phenomenon of Lake Geneva.
Fata-Morgana is the most complex kind of mirages. It is a collection of several forms of mirages. In this case, the objects that the mirage depicts increase many times and are quite distorted.
Mirage-ghosts or mirages-werewolves
They produce a special psychological effect on their victims. Some visions also puzzle contemporary scientists. For example, the French colonial squad crossed the Algerian desert. Nearby they saw a flock of flamingos. But when they crossed the border of the mirage, instead of two legs, each got four - a real Arabian rider in white.
The commander of the detachment, of course, was frightened and sent a scout to check what kind of people were in the desert. When the soldier got into the mirage zone, he understood everything. But the metamorphosis that happened with him, observed by his comrades, shocked them. His horse's legs became so long that it seemed he was sitting on a fantastic monster.
I would like to add that although this is an extremely beautiful and mysterious sight, it is also very dangerous. Mirages kill and lead to the madness of their victims. Especially it concerns the desert mirages. And the explanation of this phenomenon does not facilitate the fate of travelers.