A tourist has filmed a cruise ship that appears to be floating above the horizon. Recorded from a balcony overlooking Cocoa Beach in Florida, the vessel appears to be suspended above the sea's surface.

But rather than the footage, shared on Snapchat, capturing a ship with the ability to fly, its hovering appearance is due to a striking optical illusion.

The natural phenomenon is known as a Fata Morgana and is a type of mirage that distorts objects in the distance. It can be seen on land or sea.

Curious to Know and See: Cruise ship floating ABOVE the sea…!? (Video)

The mirage occurs as a result of the sun heating up the atmosphere above land or oceans, which creates a gradient of temperatures.
The air close to the surface is relatively cool and above that, there are layers of warmer air.

When light hits a boundary between two layers that are different temperatures – and as a result different densities – therefore it bends and travels at a different angle.

Our brain assumes that light travels in straight paths, so when it bends, we think the object is where it would be if the light's path ran straight.

The unusual name - 'Fata' which is Latin for 'fairy' and 'Morgana' who was the sorceress in the legend of King Arthur - comes from the idea that the mirages were images created by witchcraft to lure sailors to their death.

A Fata Morgana can show a stretched zone above the ocean horizon - such as a false wall of water that looks like an elevated horizon.
The optical illusion can also be seen where the sun sets over the ocean - when the spherical sun seems to elongate or distort as it 'meets' the horizon.

Not only can the phenomenon distort objects images so they appear larger or smaller, in different places and upside down but it can also obscure them completely.

Land, ships and other features can be hidden behind this wall.

Source: DailyMail