It’s a rare phenomenon indeed.
A Cork walker who snapped a photograph of an enormous ship seemingly suspended in air near Fountainstown unwittingly captured a shot of a ‘Fata Morgana’, a complex form of superior mirage.
Dr Maria Kirrane, sustainability officer at University College Cork, was strolling by the water back in October when she spotted the unnerving sight; a large tanker appeared to be hovering above the horizon in the distance.
— Dr Maria Kirrane (@mariakirrane) March 6, 2021
Dr Kirrane had no idea how rare the phenomenon was until she spotted a story about a similar sighting in Cornwall in the New York Times.
Here’s the science bit: In calm weather, a layer of warmer air may rest over colder dense air, forming an atmospheric duct that acts like a refracting lens.
In the piece, Dr. Claire Cisowski, a research fellow in optics at the University of Glasgow, explained the optical illusion, saying “sometimes an image is deflected when the rays of light that reach us go through different layers.”
The mirage, which is is generally seen in a narrow band right above the horizon, is much more common in the Arctic, where temperature changes between the water and air are more frequent.
Have you spotted a superior mirage off the Cork coast? Send your photos to [email protected]