When out for a walk, Monica Schaffner was taken aback when she saw a soaring ship on the horizon. At the moment, other ships were sailing normally. “It was like seeing something unreal,” the woman told the New Zealand Herald. “I was sure my eyes were playing tricks on me.
I needed to confirm with my husband that he saw things the same as I did.”
“I even asked him to pull over so I could take a picture.”
An optical illusion known as Fata Morgana, also known as a mirage, was observed by a New Zealand resident on the beach near Mount Maunganui. Fata Morgana mirages distort the entity or objects on which they are based significantly, making them unrecognizable. On land, at sea, in the polar regions, and in deserts, a Fata Morgana can be found. In a steep thermal inversion where an atmospheric duct has formed, light rays are bent when they travel through air layers of varying temperatures, creating the optical phenomenon.
A thermal inversion is a weather process in which warmer air forms a distinct layer on top of slightly colder air. Warmer air at the surface is replaced by cooler air further up in this temperature inversion, which is the polar opposite of what usually happens.