The mysterious mirage effect

Sometimes the view is deceptive at sea. Mainly because of some incredible optical illusions that occur there. Some arouse great interest in those who can recognize them. For example the mysterious Fata Morgana effect that occurs on certain banks. Even his name has some relation to magic.

The mysterious Fata Morgana Effect is an optical illusion that occurs off certain coasts.
The mysterious Fata Morgana Effect is an optical illusion that occurs off certain coasts.
Legend illusion

It is in the legend of King Arthur, a classic character in European literature. He had a stepsister who was a powerful sorceress and could change her appearance. It is known as Morgana le Fay, Morgane, Morganna, Morgaine, and various other names. She is referred to as a fairy, sorceress or sorceress depending on the literary work. The etymology of his name is unclear. But there are scholars who argue that the word morgana could come from the Breton Mori-Gena, which means “born of the sea”.

It is in her honor that the Fata Morgana effect is so called (Fee Morgana in Italian). This is a strange optical illusion. It is connected to the coasts of Barcelona, ​​Norway, New Zealand and especially the Strait of Messina, the area of ​​southern Italy, between Calabria and Sicily.

Figures in the air

The forms are varied. Flying boats, floating cities, fictional mountains, icebergs or cliffs. Even apparently buildings worthy of the most classic fantasies. Many people have seen such optical illusions on all shores. Social media is full of incredible images. Those who do not know what it is believe they have discovered a miracle.

Morgana is a student of the magician Merlin, a fictional Welsh character, in several stories. In others he appears as his rival. To bewitch him, Morgana seduces him by changing her own appearance. He does the same with Arturo, whom he rivaled in other stories as well. The vivid images from the coast are just as deceptive.

But how does it come about? It is when the originally straight rays of light pass through the atmosphere or a mass of air. Their trajectory varies and they become curved. This phenomenon, known as refraction, creates certain visual effects.

The visual effect can make us see whimsical shapes on the sea.
The visual effect can make us see whimsical shapes on the sea.

One of the things that change the direction of the sun’s rays is the temperature of the air layer (the denser the colder). A mirage occurs when a ray of sunlight first passes through a layer of low temperature air (upper layer) and then reaches a higher temperature layer (lower layer).

Mirages are phenomena associated with the propagation of light in inhomogeneous media. The refractive index changes continuously with altitude. Hence the light describes curved paths. These curves have a concavity in the direction of increasing the refractive index. This means that the light is bent towards the medium (water, air, etc.) with the highest refractive index.

For the mysterious Fata Morgana effect to occur, there has to be a thermal inversion between the layers near the ground or on the surface of the water. When the light hits, the actual position of the object is subject to human interpretation. The image generation is due to the refraction of light that has been changed.

The fairy Morgana continues to do her thing in the sea. Blessed are those who can see it.

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