SAWYER, Mich. — Joshua Super captured an odd weather phenomenon while camping at Warren Dunes State Park in Michigan last month.
He saw a mirage of the Chicago skyline, upside-down, from the other side of Lake Michigan — about 60 miles away. And he snapped a few photos of what he saw, including one that’s gone viral on Reddit.
According to the Detroit Free Press, what Super saw is known as a superior mirage, and it’s caused by a large, well-defined area of warm air over a layer of colder air that distorts light rays.
“A thermal inversion forms over the lake, bending the line of sight from the camera to Chicago back down, and producing the inverted image, which is typical of mirages,” Andrew T. Young, an astronomer at San Diego State University and a leading mirage expert, told the newspaper.
Young said superior mirages are not uncommon at this time of year, when the air is warming but lakes are still cold from the winter.
“The air isn’t usually clear enough to make the mirage visible at this big a range; so the clarity of the air is probably the most unusual circumstance in this case,” he told the newspaper. “It’s also helpful that the setting sun is lighting up the high clouds in the sky beyond Chicago, so that the buildings are silhouetted against the bright sunset sky.