A mirage is a naturally occurring optical phenomenon in which light rays are bent to produce a displaced image of distant objects or the sky. The word comes to English via the French mirage, from the Latin mirari, meaning "to look at, to wonder at". This is the same root as for "mirror" and "to admire".

In contrast to a hallucination, a mirage is a real optical phenomenon which can be captured on camera, since light rays actually are refracted to form the false image at the observer's location. What the image appears to represent, however, is determined by the interpretive faculties of the human mind. For example, inferior images on land are very easily mistaken for the reflections from a small body of water.

Mirages can be categorized as "inferior" (meaning lower), "superior" (meaning higher) and "Fata Morgana", one kind of superior mirage consisting of a series of unusually elaborate, vertically-stacked images, which form one rapidly-changing mirage.

Read more about Mirage:  Cause, Inferior Mirage, Superior Mirage, Mirage of Astronomical Objects, Heat Haze

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... Convection causes the temperature and hence the refractive index of the air to vary, and so a blurred shimmering effect is produced which affects the ability to resolve objects, the effect being increased when the image is magnified through a telescope or telephoto lens ... Heat Haze is not related to the atmospheric phenomenon of haze. ...

Famous quotes containing the word mirage:

    Whom we desired above all things to know,
    Sister of the mirage and echo.
    Robert Graves (1895–1985)

    Go out of the house to see the moon, and ‘t is mere tinsel; it will not please as when its light shines upon your necessary journey. The beauty that shimmers in the yellow afternoons of October, who could ever clutch it? Go forth to find it, and it is gone: ‘t is only a mirage as you look from the windows of diligence.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882)

    ... the idea of a classless society is ... a disastrous mirage which cannot be maintained without tyranny of the few over the many. It is even more pernicious culturally than politically, not because the monolithic state forces the party line upon its intellectuals and artists, but because it has no social patterns to reflect.
    Agnes E. Meyer (1887–1970)