BRIDGMAN, Mich. (MEDIA GENERAL) – “We were definitely not expecting to photograph this,” said Josh Super who was camping with his girlfriend at Warren Dunes State Park near Bridgman, Michigan. The images he captured of an upside down Chicago skyline over Lake Michigan received 1.5 million views on Reddit.
Super is not a professional photographer. He said when they were hiking hear sunset his girlfriend noticed the odd horizon first.
I had absolutely no clue what we were looking at, no matter how much we discussed it,” Super said. “It appeared as though something foreign was rising out of the middle of Lake Michigan.”
What Is It?
Events like this are rare, but usually happen from mid-April to mid-May on calm, clear days or nights, explained meteorologist Ellen Bacca at WOOD TV. This type of mirage with an upside down image is called a “superior mirage,” which means an image of an object appears above the actual object.
Why Do They Form?
The lake is still really cold this time of year, but air temperatures are getting warmer. Mirages are most likely to form when very warm air slides over land and the wind stays calm. This forms something called an “inversion” over the lake. The change in air density bends light waves and creates the mirage.
It’s not very hard to think about light waves bending. Just think of how a straw looks when you put it in a cup of water. The light hitting the different density of water and air makes the straw look like it is bent.
“I didn’t realize this phenomenon would turn out to be so rare and that most people were not aware of it. It was a really cool thing to learn about, and I’m just glad we were able to experience it,” Super said.