Badlands Mirage

February 18, 2012


Photographer: Kelly Whitaker
Summary Authors: Kelly Whitaker; Jim Foster

With its odd landform shapes, the Badlands of South Dakota sometimes gives one the sense of being on another planet. These badlands, primarily highly eroded, exposed sedimentary strata, can look particularly strange when a temperature inversion results in a superior mirage, causing them to loom. With this type of a mirage, the refracted image appears above the true image. Shown above is a superior mirage or Fata Morgana that formed on the horizon, some 60 mi (100 km) away, just after sunup in late December 2011. The cold morning air settled close to the ground, but the layer of air just above it was several degrees warmer. In essence, light coming from the distant landforms passing upward through the warmer air was bent downward so that the miraging objects looked to be above their actual (not refracted) position. Photo taken on December 28, 2011.
Photo Details: Camera: Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XTi; Focal Length: 109.0mm; Lens: Tamron 70-300 mm; Aperture: f/7.1; Exposure Time: 0.050 s (1/20); ISO equiv: 400; Software: Adobe Photoshop Elements 9.0 Windows.