When many hear the word mirage, Hortobagy will probably jump first. And Petőfi, who in his works described one of the everyday phenomena of the vast pastures of the great plain that it burns in our memory for life.
Of course, a mirage does not always mean the prosperity of the well, the church tower and the herd of cattle on the roof. On warm summer days, you can see a similar phenomenon in the atmosphere on warm asphalt or overheated train tracks.
Why does the road glow in the heat?
Mirrors are often observed near the horizon. In this case, the objects on the horizon appear to be floating in the summer heat, double, or appear upside down. This phenomenon is caused by the refraction of light passing through layers of air with different refractive indices.
In the summer heat, the sun heats up the road, and the air layer above the road surface expands and its density decreases. There is a large temperature difference between the layer of air just above the road surface and the layer of air just a few inches above it. Because of this, the refractive index changes, and the way the light passes through.
However, all this effect is not uniform. The density of rising air and thus its optical properties fluctuate constantly. This, in turn, creates the brilliant effect that we see from a distance on the horizon. When a car passes on the road, it often appears that it is reflected off the glossy surface. However, only a small piece of this small mirage can be seen, in which case it may appear that the wheels of the car are stretched, perhaps a mirror image of the license plate.
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Images: Getty Images Hungary