By Tim Binnall
A spellbinding video out of China shows an optical illusion which makes it seem as if a massive 'ghost city' had appeared on a lake. The remarkable scene reportedly unfolded at Hongze Lake in the city of Huai'an on Sunday afternoon to the amazement of residents who caught sight of the mirage which lasted for a whopping 40 minutes. As luck would have it, a photographer named Chen Kai was at the site hoping to snap some shots of the sunset and wound up capturing some tremendously detailed footage of the illusion.
In Kai's video, which has gone viral on Chinese social media, a number of what are described as "ancient buildings" featuring "antique octagonal towers, city walls, and residential houses" can be seen on the horizon. Alongside the structures are also wind turbines which were apparently also part of the amazing mirage. The sheer size and complexity of the illusion may best be appreciated when one sees the shockingly barren scene at the lake shortly after the mirage had dissipated.
While we wish that Kai had filmed a glimpse of another dimension or some kind of apparition of an entire city, scientists have an explanation for the phenomenon. It's actually called 'Fata Morgana' and it occurs via a complex set of meteorological circumstances where the varying layers of air temperature cause light to bend in a certain way that leads to seemingly out of place reflections appearing in exotic locations.
It is believed that before weather experts identified the phenomenon, Fata Morgana was often the source of fantastic legends of 'ghost ships' and 'mythical cities' that would suddenly appear on the high seas before vanishing in thin air. As for the source of this particular instance of the phenomenon taking place, attempts to match the 'ghost city' on Hongze Lake with a specific municipality in China have proved fruitless so far, but that may be because of distortions in the reflection.