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Explain ‘mirage’ as an illustration of refraction.

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i. On a hot clear Sunny day, along a level road, there appears a pond of water ahead of the road. Flowever, if we physically reach the spot, there is nothing but the dry road and water pond again appears some distance ahead. This illusion is called mirage.

ii. Mirage results from the refraction of light through a non-uniform medium.

iii. On a hot day the air in contact with the road is hottest and as we go up, it gets gradually cooler. The refractive index of air thus decreases with height. Hot air tends to be less optically dense than cooler air which results into a non-uniform medium.

iv. Light travels in a straight line through a uniform medium but refracts when traveling through a non-uniform medium.

v. Thus, the ray of light coming from the top of an object get refracted while travelling downwards into less optically dense air and become more and more horizontal as shown in Figure.

vi. As it almost touches the road, it bends (refracts) upward. Then onwards, upward bending continues due to denser air. 

vii. As a result, for an observer, it appears to be coming from below thereby giving an illusion of reflection from an (imaginary) water surface.

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