Miracle or Mirage

article by Jules Antelmi , illustrated by Michel Streich

Learning intention: 

I am learning to discuss scientific information with my peers so that we can collaboratively assess our understanding of a text. 


Success criteria: 

  • I can use scientific explanations to answer questions about a text. 
  • I can discuss my understanding of different sides of a situation with my peers. 
  • I can present my understanding of the information by taking on the role of a character. 


After reading the article, discuss what they learnt about mirages. This can be done with quiz questions, such as: 

Question: What are mirages? 

Example answer: Mirages are optical illusions that have tricked many people. 

Q: How can they be created on a road? 

EA: Mirages can be created on roads when sunlight becomes refracted by moving through cool air and into the hot air above the road. This causes our brains to think the light is coming from water. 

Q: What are looming mirages? 

EA: ‘Looming mirages can appear stretched, mirrored, duplicated, or elevated and make it appear as though objects are floating in the sky. 

Q: What causes looming mirages? 

EA: They are caused by the warm ocean mingling with the cool air above it. 

Q: What is a parhelion or sundog? 

EA: This occurs when light is refracted through cirrus clouds, it can cause the appearance of a halo or bright spots on either side of the sun as it is rising or setting. 

Q: When does an Omega sun most often occur? 

EA: Omega suns occur when the sun is setting and are more common during winter in colder climates. 

Q: What is a broken spectre? 

EA: A broken spectre looks like a ghostly human-like figure but is just a person’s shadow projected through things such as mist, clouds or fog when there is a light behind it. 

Q: What are light pillars? 

EA: Light pillars are beams of light that shoot up into the sky or streak down from it. They are caused by light bouncing off ice crystals and down through the air. 


Watch the video Is This Boat Floating in Mid-Air? No! But Here’s Why It Looks That Way to allow students to view a diagram and scientific explanation about the Fata Morgana. Discuss students’ understanding afterwards and talk about what it would be like to see this occurring without knowing what it was. If you have a digital subscription, a matching game can be used to test student knowledge by matching the mirage pictures to their names. 

Students should then break into groups of three. Inform them that they are going to make their own short news segment about sighting a mirage. One student will play the witness, one will play the reporter and one will play the scientist. Explain that the responsibility of each role will be as follows: 

Witness – will describe what they saw, what they were doing when they noticed it and what their reaction was. 

Scientists- will explain what type of mirage it was, what caused those mirages and why this one occurred. 

Reporter – will ask specific questions of both guests to enable them to communicate the information they need to. 

Students should collaborate by discussing ideas, writing a script, and rehearsing together. Once they feel they are ready to present their segment, groups should perform for their class.