Abstract

Mirage is a fascinating phenomenon that has attracted many scientists to report their observations and descriptions about it. There are two different approaches to mirage formation. The more popular one is attributed to total internal reflection that occurs in the near ground air layers on hot sunny days. According to the other approach, mirage is an image in a rough surface that is observed at grazing angles of incidence. Most of the existing descriptions are qualitative and some include calculations based on guessing temperature change with no concrete experiments. In this report, first we show that Fermat’s principle also concerns the wave nature of light and covers the constructive and destructive interference that is essential for image formation. Then, we provide a brief review of the image formation theory in a rough plane and demonstrate by experiments in the lab and deserts that the temperature gradient in the near ground air layers does not lead to mirage formation.

© 2015 Optical Society of America

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