At sea, objects in the distance may appear to be floating above the horizon. A Fata Morgana is a complex, rapidly changing form of a superior mirage, an optical phenomenon that is created when light bends as it passes through a layer of air that is warmer than the layer below it, according to SKYbrary. Made up of several inverted and upright images stacked on top of each other, Fata Morganas appear as warped, often unrecognizable, objects or shapes that seem to float above the horizon.

Every year, around the second week of February, the setting sun hits Horsetail Fall in Yosemite National Park at a particular angle, illuminating the top of the waterfall, according to its official website. If the fall is flowing and the weather conditions are just right, the illuminated water glows bright orange and red, as if it’s on fire.

Jacob’s Well in Austin, Texas, is known for terrifying people who jump into this giant watering hole. While it’s 140 feet deep, according to Hays County’s official website, an illusion makes it look like the well is much deeper. With a trick of light and crystal-clear water, it seems like you’re jumping thousands of feet into the Earth.

Along the shoreline of Mauritius, there appears to be a flowing river underneath the turquoise water of the Indian Ocean. While underwater waterfalls do exist, according to the National Ocean Service, this isn’t one of them. In this case, what looks like water is actually sand getting pushed off an underwater shelf called the Mascarene Plateau, according to Britannica.

Known for their saucer-like appearance, lenticular clouds are stationary clouds that usually form on the downwind side of a mountain range, given that the temperature is low enough, according to the National Weather Service. Under the right conditions, moisture in the air condenses to form these massive, striking shapes in the sky.

A unique rock formation known as The Wave is located in Arizona, in the Coyote Buttes North area in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness. To see this stunning sight in person, however, you’ll need to enter a lottery system to get a permit four months in advance, according to the US Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management website.

A Fata Morgana is a complex form of superior mirage visible in a narrow band right above the horizon. The term Fata Morgana is the Italian translation of “Morgan the Fairy” (Morgan le Fay of Arthurian legend). These mirages are often seen in the Italian Strait of Messina, and were described as fairy castles in the air or false land conjured by her magic.

Fata Morgana mirages significantly distort the object or objects on which they are based, often such that the object is completely unrecognizable. A Fata Morgana may be seen on land or at sea, in polar regions, or in deserts. It may involve almost any kind of distant object, including boats, islands, and the coastline. Often, a Fata Morgana changes rapidly. The mirage comprises several inverted (upside down) and erect (right-side up) images that are stacked on top of one another. Fata Morgana mirages also show alternating compressed and stretched zones.


Image courtesy David Morris / APEX, David Morris / APEX and Vyshnivskyy / Shutterstock

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