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A bizarre photo of a boat that appears to be floating on air has sent the internet into a frenzy as people try to understand what has happened.

The photo taken off the coast of Falmouth, Cornwall, shows the boat hovering metres above the surface of the water.

David Morris, who took the snap, said he was "extremely baffled" when he looked into the distance and saw the boat which looked like it was suspended in the sky.

Sightings of cruise ships hovering above the water were also reported in Devon and Scotland earlier this week.

While many have been left confused by the mirage, there is an explanation behind it – although sadly, it's not quite as magical as some would want to believe.

The optical illusion is explained by the Fata Morgana phenomenon, which is created when the the atmosphere around the sea is heated up by the sun, creating a gradient of temperatures.

David Braine, BBC meteorologist, said the snap was caused by a layer of cold air coming off the sea and warm air above it.

"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," he explained.

Colin McCallum spotted a "large floating vessel" off the coast of Banff, Aberdeenshire and was equally astounded.

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  • He told The Sun: “When I first saw the boat, I had to do a double take because I genuinely thought it was floating.

    “Upon further inspection, however, I noticed that it was in fact just a remarkable optical illusion."

    It's thought the mirage explains the legend of the Flying Dutchman, a 17th century floating "ghost ship" doomed to sail for eternity.

    • Optical Illusion

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