What Is the Fata Morgana?

Sailors in the Mediterranean have long marveled at the image of distant castles hovering over the sea near the city of Messina, Sicily.

But as the sailors neared the image, it moved away from them or completely disappeared. They thought this illusion was a trick played by an evil fairy named Morgan Le Fay. So the illusion became known as the Fata Morgana.

But the Fata Morgana is merely a mirage. Layers of hot and cold air over the sea near Messina produce a reflection in the sky of the houses in Messina, one reflection piled on another so that the mirage looks like a towering castle!

Mirages like the Fata Morgana can also be seen off the western coast of Japan, and even in the Great Lakes!