THIS is the incredible moment a cruise ship is spotted hovering above the sea off Plymouth in a mind-bending optical illusion.

The phenomenon was captured on Louiz Ryan's phone while he was travelling from Exeter to Plymouth on the train.



The mind-boggling images show a large white liner floating above the sea like some kind of ghost ship.

"My first thought was, do cruise ships actually fly," a baffled Louiz said as he took the photos near Teignmouth.

This isn't the first time Brits have been tricked by an optical illusion.

In April, a container ship appeared hovering in the sky along a piece of the Kent coastline, mesmerising onlookers.

Another was spotted near Falmouth in March and in Aberdeenshire.

The phenomenon – known as Fata Morgana – is created when the sun heats up the atmosphere above either the land or the sea.

A layer of warmer air sits on top of a layer of cold air, causing the light from the ship to bend and making colours blend together.  

For a Fata Morgana to appear, the atmospheric conditions have to be just right, the Mail Online reports.

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.

And although the phenomenon can occur on land, they are more common at sea because water helps to form the cool air layer required.

BBC meteorologist David Braine previously said the phenomenon is caused conditions in the atmosphere which bend light. 

"Superior mirages occur because of the weather condition known as a temperature inversion, where cold air lies close to the sea with warmer air above it," he said.

"Since 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 distant object appears."

The mirage takes its name from Morgan le Fay – a sorceress from Arthurian legend – said to use her witchcraft to lure unwitting sailors into her traps.

So what is Fata Morgana?

A FATA Morgana is created when a layer of warmer air sits on top of a layer of cold air, causing the light to bend more than normal.

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.

Although the phenomenon can occur on land, they are more common at sea because water helps to form the cool air layer required.

Floating ships – like those which have been seen off Britain recently – are just one possible effect of the Fata Morgana.

It can warp, distort and obscure images – squashing them, making them blend into the horizon, or even producing chilling spooky inversions where a mirror image appears above the object.

Fata Morgana can also take the form of a "sea hedge" – which almost appears like a wall or cliff of water around the horizon.

The phenomena has been linked to numerous folklore tales, such as the infamous ghost ship the Flying Dutchman.

It has also been blamed for the appearances of phantom islands, such as the legendary Sannikov Land in Russia and the non-existence of the mountain-range of the Croker Mountains.

More recently Fata Morgana has been linked to sightings of UFOs and it is increasingly caught on camera.

Numerous photos document the mirage which show warped images of ships on the horizon, glistening walls of water appearing out to sea, or even cities in the sky.

The mirage takes its name from Morgan le Fay – a sorceress from Arthurian legend – said to use her witchcraft to lure unwitting sailors into her traps. 

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