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 that can be captured on camera, since light rays are actually 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.
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