Photo credit: DAVID MORRIS/APEX
Photographer and businessman David Morris was snapping photos of Cornwall’s coastline on a clear day when a floating ship seemingly appeared off in the horizon. However, this is just an optical illusion known as a superior mirage, and they occur due to temperature inversion, or where cold air lies close to the sea with warmer air above it. More specifically, when the cold air is denser than warm air, it bends light towards the eyes of someone standing on the ground or on the coast, changing how a far off object appears. Read more for two videos and additional information.
BBC News meteorologist David Braine added that even though this phenomenon made the ship appear to float over the water, sometimes an object below the horizon can become visible, which casts objects that would otherwise be invisible into someone’s sight, just like a giant mirror would.
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The images appear to show evidence of a phenomenon called fata morgana. A rare and complex form of mirage in which horizontal and vertical distortion, inversion and elevation of objects occur in changing patterns. The phenomenon occurs over a water surface and is produced by the superposition of several layers of air of different refractive index,” said a spokesperson for the UK’s Met Office says.