Question

What is the mirage effect?

Asked by: Ali Reza Shokati

Answer

A mirage is not only seen by thirsty desert wanderers. You can also see one driving comfortably along a black top highway on a sunny day. That 'wet' looking spot on the road up ahead could actually be a mirage that stays in the distance, as impossible to reach as a rainbow.

Normally, water in the distance is seen by its ability to reflect light off of its surface. In the case of a mirage, it is REFRACTION, not reflection, creating a similar effect. The hot surface warms the air immediately above it to a higher temperature than the air higher up. A light ray grazing the surface under those circumstances is bent, or refracted, upward. That's because light travels faster in warmer, less dense, air than in denser cold air. The faster motion of the lower part of a light ray speeds ahead of the upper part, causing it to bend (refract) upward.

When the refracted light ray meets your eye, it appears to be coming from the road surface instead of the distant sky. A reflected light ray follows a similar path, so the refracted ray is interpreted as a reflected one and a 'Mirage' is seen.

Reference:


Answered by: Paul Walorski, B.A., Part-time Physics Instructor

Search

Loading






Science Quote

'Never regard study as a duty, but as the enviable opportunity to learn to know the liberating influence of beauty in the realm of the spirit for your own personal joy and to the profit of the community to which your later work belongs.'

Albert Einstein
(1879-1955)

Top Selling

Here are our physics & astronomy bestsellers:
Magnetic Levitator - Classic
KonusScience 5 Way Microscope Kit
CHEM C2000 Chemistry SuperKit v2.0
Snap Circuits Jr.
Periscope
Space Wonder Gyroscope
Solar Radiometer
Mini Plasma Ball
Smart Robot 4M Kit
130 Electronics Projects Kit

Sponsors

USC University of Southern California Dornsife College Physics and Astronomy Department McMaster University Physics and Astronomy Department