A video of a city floating in the clouds over a Chinese city has gone viral this week. Conspiracies about this startling video range from a secret NASA project and an alien invasion to an actual atmospheric phenomenon.
“It looks almost too good,” says Peggy LeMone, an atmospheric scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.
“If it is real, it’s called a superior mirage, which just means it’s an upward projecting mirage,” says Jill Coleman, an atmospheric scientist at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.
Coleman speculates that what people saw is a fata morgana, which is a kind of atmospheric mirage.
To get a fata morgana, you need cold dense air near the ground with a layer of warmer air above it. This causes the light to bounce and bend in the air, creating a reflection. The further away from an object a person is, the taller the object will appear.
A fata morgana is why people can sometimes see ships “flying” through the sky. In fact, a similar phenomena was spotted just a day ago in Hastings, England.
Coleman looked at atmospheric conditions over Jiangxi and Foshan, China, during the time the video was supposedly shot. “They did have temperature inversions going on during that time period,” she says. Coleman thinks the video is probably real.
Sorry to burst the bubble, but science says the video of the floating city in China is real but it’s not the workings of aliens or a secret NASA project. Regardless of what it is, it’s totally creepy!