Friday, 12 December 2014

Lumpy horizon

Sea UFOI love examining strange photos! I like taking strange photos even more. However, I never thought the photo (right) odd in any way when I took it. This photo (right), like the one in 8 Dec post, is also from the seaside.

Perhaps surprisingly, the picture shows the horizon, with a calm sea below and yellow sky above. So what are those odd-looking 'lumps' on the horizon? Some appear to be floating above the sea with a visible gap beneath. This picture is tightly cropped, from a much larger photo, to show the oddities on the horizon. These ragged lumps continue right across the horizon in the original photo, and occur in other shots taken at the same time. I've compared the horizon with other photos taken around the same location on other occasions. In those other photos the horizon looks flat, just as you might expect.

So what are these odd lumps? One possibility is large waves. However, they don't look like waves and the sea was calm. So what about clouds? There ARE some clouds in this, and other, photos taken at the same time. They are all yellow or white, no dark ones at all. Indeed, the yellow above the horizon in this photo IS cloud. All the lumps occur are ONLY on the horizon, unlike other clouds present. What about boats? The gaps under some of the lumps would appear to rule boats out.

Sea horizonI think the big clue is that the lumps are the same colour as the sea below. In other words, the ARE the sea! I think the lumps are a mirage of the sea itself. The second photo is of exactly the same place (you might be able to make out a distant gull, top right, in both images). The second photo (right) was taken just 0.15s after the first. The lumps have altered noticeably in that short period. This rapid variability, on its own, effectively rules out boats, clouds and waves. But it does fit with mirages which can change rapidly due to turbulence in the air.

Such horizon mirages can sometimes produce spectacular images of objects beyond the horizon, like boats or islands, that appear to float entirely in the air. They can give rise to reports of UFOs or ghost ships. For more mirages, see here.

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