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Why Do We See Mirages?

Physics | 7-12 yrs | Interactive, Learning Pod

What is a mirage?

A mirage is a trick nature plays with our vision. This effect is called a mirage. When light passes through layers of hot and cold air, it bends, fooling our eyes into seeing something which is not present.

The desert is a mirage maker

You may have often read in stories from the desert that people think they can see trees or bodies of water far away, but then as they walk closer to these imaginary trees or water, they vanish. This happens because it is all a mirage.

How do layers of air above the sea create a mirage?

When sea water is very cold, the air above it becomes cold too. Above this cold layer of air is a warmer layer. Light reflected off something far away, like an island, will bend as it passes through these cold and warm layers. If this light then enters our eyes, we think we can see the object floating in the sky. It may even seem to be upside down.

Why do we see mirages on hot days?

When the air near the ground is very hot, we sometimes think we can see a pool of water. The pool is really a reflection of the sky caused by bending light.

Things to do – 

  • While you’re travelling on an empty stretch of road look out mirages.
  • Watch the experiment titled “Invisible glass trick” on mocomi.com to see the effects of bending light.

For more such interesting Physics videos and articles visit our Physics for Kids category.