The model given above explains the cause of the inferior mirage, called "inferior" because the image seen is under the real object. The real object is the (blue) sky or any distant object in that direction, meaning we see a bright bluish patch on the ground in the distance. For exhausted travelers in the desert it appears as a lake of water. On tarmac roads it may seem that water or even oil has been spilled. This is called a "desert mirage" or "highway mirage". Note that both sand and tarmac can become very hot when exposed to the sun, easily being more than 10°C hotter than the air one meter above, enough to cause the mirage.
Light rays coming from a particular distant object all travel through nearly the same air layers and all are bent over about the same amount. Therefore rays coming from the top of the object will arrive lower than those from the bottom. The image usually is upside down, enhancing the illusion that the sky image seen in the distance is really a water or oil puddle acting as a mirror.
Inferior images are not stable. Hot air rises, and cooler air (being more dense) descends, so the layers will mix, giving rise to turbulence. The image will be distorted accordingly. It may be vibrating; it may be vertically extended (towering) or horizontally extended (stooping). If there are several temperature layers, several mirages may mix, perhaps causing double images. In any case, mirages are usually not larger than about half a degree high (same apparent size as the sun and moon) and from objects only a few kilometers away.
Read more about this topic: Mirage
Other articles related to "inferior mirage, mirage":
... A highway mirage is an inferior mirage which can be seen very commonly on roadways by day or by night ... This hot-road mirage is usually most noticeable on hot sunny days ...
... Inferior mirage of astronomical objects is the most common mirage ... Inferior mirage occurs when the surface of the Earth or the oceans produces a layer of hot air of lower density, just at the surface ... There are two images, the inverted one and the erect one, in inferior mirage.They both are displaced from the geometric direction to the actual object ...
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—Ralph Waldo Emerson (18031882)
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