A PICTURE of a cruise liner that looks like it was floating in midair has become an internet sensation.
The photograph of the boat, taken by someone standing on land, shows the vessel hovering several metres above the water.
The image, which has attracted more than 44,000 views since it was posted online a few days ago, is thought to illustrate the optical illusion that is a “superior mirage”, The Sun reports.
Also known as a Fata Morgana, the illusion is a phenomenon where ideal climactic conditions can see light travel over vast distances and even cross horizons.
The Fata Morgana is thought to be the cause of a range of strange sightings, including when startled sailors saw the Irish cliffs appear in the middle of the ocean.
The illusion only occurs when, unusually, the air is colder on the ground than above.
Called a temperature inversion — because air is usually warmer at ground level — under certain circumstances, light can be bent across the atmosphere creating projections of images from hundreds of kilometres away that would be otherwise invisible.
It is thought that this same illusion is what created the myth of the Flying Dutchman, a legendary ghost ship that was said to be doomed to sail the oceans forever, that was sighted numerous times throughout the 19th and 20th century.
This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission.