Skip to content

Fata Morgana – a “Superior Mirage”

Ship appears to be hovering above sea. Courtesy by Timpaanen

Ship appears to be hovering above sea. Courtesy by Timpaanen

For centuries, people have claimed to see ships floating in the waters or even in the air, but later disappear. Also, for centuries, people claimed to see cities floating in the air that eventually disappeared.

We now know such eerie phenomena have actually occurred and can be scientifically explained. Such wondrous feats can be based on mirages. Mirages are optical illusions of real things and are not hallucinations. Unlike hallucinations, mirages can be photographed.

Under certain conditions involving light, heat, and the atmosphere; images of real objects can be refracted by sunlight and appear in an area far away from the actual location of the object. A person sees the reflected image but does not know it s a naturally projected image and wrongly assumes it is the object itself.


There is a mirage which is called a “Fata Morgana” which is a type of “superior mirage”. It is created when cold denser air at the surface bends light reflected from a distant object downward. Our brains misinterpret the object as being seen as though its reflector light came straight in front of us. The object appears higher than it actually is and often times appears to be floating in the middle of the air or in mid sky.

The legend of the “Flying Dutchman Ship” could be based on sailors on the high seas having viewed a Fata Morgana of such a ship.  As a person seems to get closer and closer to the reflected object, after the conditions for the natural projection cease, the object disappears.

An interesting thought is that people who saw a city floating in the sky, as travelers on a holy pilgrimage, may have thought they actually saw the “Kingdom of Heaven” through experiencing a spiritual vision.

For more information:

Share this post on social media!