Seeing is believing
May 11, 2006 9:38 AM   Subscribe

I didn't believe my eyes, but it turns out that it only takes some cold water and a thermal inversion to make a superior mirage (superior in both position and awesomeness). Pekka Parviainen has written about the phenomenon in Finland and has lots of photos to share. Still don't believe? Watch the videos: especially the one in which the mirage disappears before your very eyes! (.rm)
posted by imposster (23 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Also: mirages phtographed with a telescope and math stuff about atmospheric optics (with more links)
posted by imposster at 10:00 AM on May 11, 2006

Eerie and beautiful. Ocean mirages put me into a semi-dream state. It makes me wonder what people of past centuries made of such phenomenon w/o the benefit of scientific explanation. It must've filled them with awe and fear all at once. I for one, would think ye Gods were at play with the earth and molding it like clay. Thanks Imposster.
posted by Skygazer at 10:15 AM on May 11, 2006

Reminds me of this post, one of my all time favorites that I link to every chance I get. Nice work, imposster.
posted by TedW at 10:26 AM on May 11, 2006

On checking the links, the site linked to at that post has been moved. (Although the old link will redirect you).
posted by TedW at 10:27 AM on May 11, 2006

Wow, that's really cool - I've seen mirages before but never quite at that scale. Pretty awesome stuff, thanks for linking!
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 10:30 AM on May 11, 2006

Those are so cool

The weirdest ones are where there is a mirage created that says "Copyright Parva Pairanien"

But seriously, those are so cool, especially the chinese one.
posted by poppo at 10:37 AM on May 11, 2006

It must've filled them with awe and fear all at once.

Arrrr! It be the sea, trickin yer eyes!

But that Chinese one is otherworldly.
posted by dreamsign at 10:42 AM on May 11, 2006

I can't help but mention this book, and its predecessor, which mention explain, and (in the case of the former) have pictures of all kinds of optical phenomena experienced in the atmosphere.
posted by notsnot at 10:51 AM on May 11, 2006

I do love that it doesn't matter how much scientific explanation there is -- phenomena like this will always be deeply moving. Rainbows, the northern lights, mirages, air-magic.
posted by Isabeau Sahen at 10:53 AM on May 11, 2006

...St. Elmo's Fire, ball lightning... absolutely.
posted by dreamsign at 10:56 AM on May 11, 2006

Wrong link above - here's the right one
math stuff about atmospheric optics (with more links)
posted by imposster at 11:03 AM on May 11, 2006

Right about that, lsabeau. I knew what the northern lights were for a long time before I actually saw them, for instance, and it was still one of the most awesome experiences ever (coupled with of course, a decent meteor shower). Even though you know what it is still doesn't affect that it can be amazingly beautiful.
posted by taursir at 11:41 AM on May 11, 2006

A huge superior mirage in MAY?? In China?? I studied mirages about 15 years ago and my trade is geophysics. Consider: (1) this dubious news source seems to be the only source of photos (why nothing on Flickr? what about the 30,000 tourists?); (2) we'd have to have a very damn strong inversion to pull off a mirage of this type; (3) the article keeps mentioning May 7, 2005, which was not a Sunday (though this past Sunday was May 7, 2006), suggesting poor editorial review; and (4) I checked the soundings for ZSQD on both 2006 and 2005 and neither shows any inversion that I'd call significant in the slightest.

The Finland pictures are absolutely authentic, but for the China story my bullshit detectors are maxed out. To me they even look photoshopped compared to the Finland pictures. I recommend some third party verification on this if we're going to start passing this steaming anecdote around. Is Snopes in the house?
posted by rolypolyman at 12:13 PM on May 11, 2006

Also I forgot to add that this type of mirage is only common to northerly climates during the cool months, in very crisp, stratified air -- that's why most such reports come out of places like Scandinavia, Iceland, Alaska, and so on. Not China.
posted by rolypolyman at 12:16 PM on May 11, 2006

Related AskMe thread, in which some fellow called Kirth attempts to defend his apparently foolish notion, using at least one off the same links as in this FPP.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:32 PM on May 11, 2006

Snopes message board post

I would say the verdict is still out
posted by imposster at 12:40 PM on May 11, 2006

Related article
this, too
"The area is also famous for the Penglai mirage, which is said to occur every few decades. Reports vary, but some witnesses have likened the phenomenon to a hazy mist while others claim to see entire towns complete with people, buildings and vehicles for roughly 40 minutes."

The whole "people and vehicles" things is suspect, and many of the pictures show more of a fog than a mirage, but it still looks cool. Convenient that it happened over a holiday weekend so that 30,000 tourists could see it.
posted by imposster at 12:48 PM on May 11, 2006

Penglai, on Gmap
posted by imposster at 1:05 PM on May 11, 2006

Apparently (no pun intended), Peng Lai is historically famous for this kind of mirage.
Mirage:PengLai is famous for natural miracle "Mirage","Mirage"usually appears in the sea surface of northern PengLai pavilion.Last year,on October 24th,25th and December 16th,it appeared three times,This year,from 5:20 am on August,but this year it has become "gate-crasher",whichever season it is,people are possible to meet unexpectedly with it.
on the sea surface,first it takes on red bend,then it turns to purple and then it changes frequently which is hard to tell the truth and falsehood.
The coming of mirage is because of the temperature difference between the sea surface air and the higher place air.There are two kinds:One is uprising scene.When the upper air temperature is higher than the surface temperature,the scene is like castles in the air;another is downhill scene.When the sea surface air temperature is higher then the upper air temperature,the scene is like inverted image.This year on August 29th the uprising scene appeared at the same time which was not seen once in a hundred years.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:26 PM on May 11, 2006

Well, if the Penglai tourism bureau says so, then I'm convinced.
posted by rolypolyman at 1:32 PM on May 11, 2006

Good, then - that's settled.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:33 PM on May 11, 2006

Interesting cultural note:

This is called a Fata Morgana Because Morgana Le Fay (wizardess half-sister of King Arthur) was supposed to have a castle floating in the sky.
posted by lumpenprole at 1:58 PM on May 11, 2006

This is really awesome.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:46 PM on May 12, 2006

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