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The real reason behind the incredible ‘Floating City’ clouds in China

The idea of a city in the sky has captured the imaginations of people everywhere for centuries – from Atlantis in the Stargate universe to Laputa in Jonathan Swift’s 1726 classic Gulliver’s Travels. Well now a breathtaking cloud formation in the south-east of China has given people reason to believe.

Above the cities of Jiangxi and Foshan, huge grey clouds converged to form what looked like a towering city skyline.

The footage was uploaded to YouTube and picked up by a number of TV news stations across the country, and then the world.

Naturally, the internet promptly began speculating wildly about the causes of the seemingly supernatural clouds.

A number of people attributed it to NASA’s ‘Project Blue Beam’ – a supposed confidential project trying to start a new world order by projecting the second coming of Jesus through giant holograms in the sky.

“Clearly this was an offshoot of project Bluebeam by the Chinese Government in conjunction with the US air force,” suggested one Youtube commenter.

Others thought it was a glitch in the matrix, a new alien city, or the opening up of an alternate universe.

But, as always, the scientific community (aka ‘The Fun Police’) have thrown cold water on all of those fascinating conclusions.

Turns out it was a ‘Fata Morgana’ – a rare type of mirage caused by weather conditions bending light rays.

Floating city in China

More specifically, when one layer of atmosphere is hot but the one beneath it is cool it generates a ‘temperature gradient’. When light hits this, as the temperatures and densities are different, it bends and then hits the next layer at a different angle.

Our brains aren’t sophisticated enough to pick this up though, so we assume the light has travelled straight – meaning we think the object is higher than it actually is.

So what we were actually seeing was a projection of the city below the clouds due to the temperature inversions going on above Jiangxi and Foshan at the time.

A Fata Morgana is often attributed to the myth of the Flying Dutchman, as it can make it seem as though ships are flying through the sky.

Sure, it’s not as cool as the NASA conspiracy – but still, pretty interesting!

About the author

Technically, Riordan writes culture, politics and sport, but 80% of his words are direct quotes stolen from The Simpsons.

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Comment (3)

    Chris

    Friday 30 October 2015

    How can it be a projection of the city below when the skylines have no similarities???

    Reply

      Crystal

      Wednesday 20 January 2016

      Exactly!! In order this to be a Fata Morgana or Mirage the object has to be the same. For example if I was on land and there’s a ship on the land and a few feet away is the ocean depending on where the light is hiring the object and where I’m standing my eyes would make it look like the ship is floating at sea when it’s really not. In this case with the buildings, the aren’t any building that resemble the one that’s was seen in the clouds. So it has to be a hologram, or some real freaky alien city. Who knows?

      Reply

    Melanie

    Friday 6 November 2015

    A mirage that is in the sky will look upside down, for example a boat will appear to be upside down in the sky, when looking at this image, the top of the buildings are smaller, so it doesnt make sense. If it was a mirage, the top of the buildings would of been larger than the bottom.

    Reply