Dear Tom,

We detected an illusion of the Chicago skyline in the southern part of present-day Lake Michigan. Can you explain how this happened?

—Robert Lewis

Dear Robert,

What you see is a “transcendental illusion” caused by the difference in density in a mass of air. It occurs when a layer of cold air hovering over the lake’s surface creates a temperature inversion that refracts light rays from the city back down into the colder, denser air near the lake’s surface, creating elongated images. like barcode. It is sometimes called Fata Morgana (Italian for Fairy Morgan), a mythical figure who lives in a crystal palace beneath the waves. The name comes from the fairy-like mirages that often appear over the Strait of Messina, which separates Sicily from mainland Italy.


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