Mirage


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Translation of mirage for Arabic Speakers. Encyclopedia article about mirage. What made you want to look up mirage? Please tell us where you read or heard it including the quote, if possible. Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way. Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free! Do you feel lucky? Our Word of the Year justice , plus 10 more.

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What is a mirage?

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Choose the Right Synonym for mirage delusion , illusion , hallucination , mirage mean something that is believed to be true or real but that is actually false or unreal. Mirage and Vision A mirage is a sort of optical illusion, a reflection of light that can trick the mind into interpreting the sight as an apparently solid thing. Examples of mirage in a Sentence A peaceful solution proved to be a mirage. Recent Examples on the Web So the ostensibly high number of undecideds in the Times House polling might be a bit of a mirage. Was that whole North Korea summit thing a mirage? Give us your tired and poor, Americans say, just not those ones," 24 May Now, as the afterglow of the Trump-Kim tete-a-tete wears off the prospect of any kind of easy North Korean solution is looking — unsurprisingly — like a mirage.

First Known Use of mirage , in the meaning defined at sense 1. Learn More about mirage. Resources for mirage Time Traveler! Explore the year a word first appeared. Listen to Our Podcast about mirage. Get Word of the Day delivered to your inbox! The illusion fades as one gets closer. On tarmac roads it may look as if water, or even oil, has been spilled. These kinds of inferior mirages are often called "desert mirages" or "highway mirages". Heat haze is not related to the atmospheric phenomenon of haze.

A superior mirage occurs when the air below the line of sight is colder than the air above it.

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This unusual arrangement is called a temperature inversion , since warm air above cold air is the opposite of the normal temperature gradient of the atmosphere. Passing through the temperature inversion, the light rays are bent down, and so the image appears above the true object, hence the name superior. Superior mirages are in general less common than inferior mirages, but, when they do occur, they tend to be more stable, as cold air has no tendency to move up and warm air has no tendency to move down.

Superior mirages are quite common in polar regions , especially over large sheets of ice that have a uniform low temperature.

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Superior mirages also occur at more moderate latitudes, although in those cases they are weaker and tend to be less smooth and stable. For example, a distant shoreline may appear to tower and look higher and, thus, perhaps closer than it really is. Because of the turbulence, there appear to be dancing spikes and towers. This type of mirage is also called the Fata Morgana or hafgerdingar in the Icelandic language.

A superior mirage can be right-side up or upside down, depending on the distance of the true object and the temperature gradient. Often the image appears as a distorted mixture of up and down parts. Superior mirages can have a striking effect due to the Earth's curvature.

Were the Earth flat, light rays that bend down would soon hit the ground and only nearby objects would be affected. Since Earth is round, if their downward bending curve is about the same as the curvature of the Earth , light rays can travel large distances, perhaps from beyond the horizon. This was observed and documented for the first time in , when a ship under the command of Willem Barentsz in search of the Northeast passage became stuck in the ice at Novaya Zemlya.

The crew was forced to endure the polar winter there.

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They saw their midwinter night come to an end with the rise of a distorted Sun about two weeks earlier than expected. It was not until the 20th century that science could explain the reason: This effect is often called a Novaya Zemlya mirage. The inversion layer must have just the right temperature gradient over the whole distance to make this possible.

In the same way, ships that are in reality so far away that they should not be visible above the geometric horizon may appear on the horizon or even above the horizon as superior mirages. This may explain some stories about flying ships or coastal cities in the sky, as described by some polar explorers. These are examples of so-called Arctic mirages, or hillingar in Icelandic. If the gradient is less as it almost always is the rays are not bent enough and get lost in space, which is the normal situation of a spherical, convex "horizon".

In some situations, distant objects can get elevated or lowered, stretched or shortened with no mirage involved. A Fata Morgana, the name of which comes from the Italian translation of Morgan le Fay , the fairy shapeshifting half-sister of King Arthur, is a very complex superior mirage.

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It appears with alternations of compressed and stretched areas, erect images, and inverted images. Fata Morgana mirages are most common in polar regions , especially over large sheets of ice with a uniform low temperature, but they can be observed almost anywhere.

In polar regions, a Fata Morgana may be observed on cold days; in desert areas and over oceans and lakes, a Fata Morgana may be observed on hot days. For a Fata Morgana, temperature inversion has to be strong enough that light rays' curvatures within the inversion are stronger than the curvature of the Earth. The rays will bend and create arcs.


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An observer needs to be within an atmospheric duct to be able to see a Fata Morgana. A Fata Morgana can go from superior to inferior mirage and back within a few seconds, depending on the constantly changing conditions of the atmosphere. Sixteen frames of the mirage of the Farallon Islands , which cannot be seen from sea level at all under normal conditions because they are located below the horizon , were photographed on the same day.

The first fourteen frames have elements of a Fata Morgana display—alternations of compressed and stretched zones. The air was cooler while the ocean was probably a little bit warmer, which made temperature inversion lower. The mirage was still present, but it was not as complex as it had been a few hours before sunset, and it corresponded no longer to a Fata Morgana but rather to a superior mirage display. Distortions of image and bending of light can produce spectacular effects. In his book Pursuit: The Chase and Sinking of the "Bismarck" , the author Ludovic Kennedy describes an incident that allegedly took place below the Denmark Strait during , following the sinking of the Hood.

The Bismarck , while pursued by the British cruisers Norfolk and Suffolk , passed out of sight into a sea mist. Within a matter of seconds, the ship re-appeared steaming toward the British ships at high speed.

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