AN INCREDIBLE optical illusion has shown a cruise ship appearing to fly above the ocean.
Footage filmed from a beach at Mount Maunganui, New Zealand, shows the vessel seemingly suspended over the horizon.
The sighting, filmed by beachgoer Monika Shaffner, was caused by a natural phenomenon – a mirage – which occurs when a layer of warm air sits on top of a layer of cold air.
When a mirage happens, changes in the atmosphere alter how an object in the distance is visible to the human eye.
Mirages occur especially in the desert or at sea and make the image of some object appear displaced above, below, or to one side of its true position.
Normally, light waves from the sun travel straight through the atmosphere to our eyes – but light travels at different speeds through hot and cold air.
Mirages happen when the ground is very hot and the air is cool, Planet Science reports.
The hot ground warms a layer of air just above the ground – and when the light moves through the cold air and into the layer of hot air, it is refracted (bent).
A layer of very warm air near the ground refracts the light from the sky nearly into a U-shaped bend.
Because our brain does not see the image as bent light, it thinks it must have come from something on the ground.
In the case of the cruise ship in New Zealand, the mirage causes the light from the vessel to bend as it passes through gaps in the air.
The optical illusion can also be seen where the sun sets over the ocean – when the spherical sun seems to stretch or distort as it “meets” the horizon.
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Earlier this year, a photographer took some images in Qatar which appeared to show giant devil horns rising over the Persian Gulf.
Elias Chasiotis captured a solar eclipse combined with the light-bending mirage effects seen near the surface of the ocean.
He said: ”I hoped that optical effects like inferior mirage would be visible and I was lucky enough to capture them.”
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