Fata Morgana is the Italian name for Morgan the Fairy, a sorceress of medieval legends. Among her powers, say some versions of the legend, was the ability to change shape, and she has been blamed for causing complex mirages over bodies of water.
Today we know that such optical illusions are really caused by atmospheric conditions, but we still sometimes use “fata morgana” as a synonym of “mirage.” Thissrare optical illusion and phenomenon that frightened sailors on the high seas.
For a Fata Morgana to appear, the atmospheric conditions have to be just right. It starts with a cold air mass close to the ground or surface of the water that is topped by a warm layer of air higher in the atmosphere. During a Fata Morgana sighting, rays of light passing through the warm and cool air masses are bent strangely and that is what makes the mirage appear.
Usually, the image is based on a real object, such as a far-off ship, just distorted to appear surreal. People report seeing floating ships, ships that appear to be flying upside down, or even landmasses that aren’t really there.
Arguably, Titanic tragedy also happened due to Fata Morgana where in a false horizon may have obstructed the view of the iceberg that sent the ship and its passengers to their watery grave. The Titanic sailed into the cold Labrador Current that clashed with warm Gulfstream waters, causing a thermal inversion, creating the mirage.