Floating Cities are Generally not Fata Morgana Mirages



A video is being widely shared on social media (and the "weird news" sections of more traditional media) claiming to show the image of an impossibly large city rising above the fog in the city of Foshan (佛山), Guangdong province, China



Here's a composite image of the Foshan video


Notice the scale of things here, there are what looks like two construction cranes on the "horizon" to the left, and the buildings seem to loom high into the sky above them.


Some have said this is an example of a fata morgana, a type of mirage where light is bent though the atmosphere in such a way to create the illusion of buildings on the horizon. This is utterly impossible in this case, as fata morgana only creates a very thin strip of such an illusion very close to the horizon, and appears small and far away. It does not create images high in the sky.


Besides, a fata morgana might create the illusion of buildings by stretching landscape features, or it might distort existing buildings. But what it cannot do it create a perfect image of existing nearby buildings, complete with windows.



The fata morgana explanation has been promoted with quotes from Atomospheric Sciences professor Kenneth Bowman, who gives a detailed explanation of what a fata morgana is. Unfortunately this was quoted in such a way that it seems like he though this was the explanation here. When I contacted him about this he said:

I had not see the actual photos when the reporter called me. She told me it was a Fata Morgana and asked me to explain what a Fata Morgana is.

I suspect that you are correct. It looks too real to be a Fata Morgana.
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So no expert has actually looked at this video and said it was a fata morgana, and they won't because it's obviously not.

The second and more common type of "floating city" illusions is with buildings that are simply rising up out of clouds or low fog, and hence appear to be floating above them. This has led to "floating city" stories in the past, with this recent example, also from China.

This is simply a photo of building across the river, but when cropped it appears like they are floating, which led to all kinds of wild stories of "ghost cities". This actually came from mistranslations of the original news reports, where local people (who knew exactly what they were looking at) were simply marveling at how pretty the scene looked, with the buildings appearing to float above clouds.


Could the Foshan video be of real buildings obscured by clouds? It does not appear so. Look at some real buildings in Foshan (and keep in mind it's not entirely clear if Foshan is the actual setting of either the top or the bottom of the video.



Consider what it would take for these buildings to appear like they do in the video, with the road beneath them. The scale is simply impossible. The image has to be composited somehow, and the possibilities are:
  • Computer generated buildings spliced into the video of the road.
  • Two different videos spliced together
  • The video is shot though glass, and the buildings are behind the camera, or to the side (with the glass at around 45°, like a half open window/door)
It's unfortunate that many people leap for the "fata morgana" or other mirage explanation when it's quite clear that this is far too high in the sky to be anything like that.

The image actually looks quite like this older image taken from a video published in June 2015.


Here we can see the image is more obviously faked in some way. The "floating" building on the right goes in front of the mountains. This means it cannot be some kind of natural phenomena. The image is either a digital composite, or it was filmed through a window or other sheet of glass.

While the two examples are not identical, there's enough similarities to think that they were faked in the same manner.


Here's an example of how a reflection from a half open glass door (opening outwards) can appear to be an image in the sky.

Here's an example of someone posting a reflection on Weibo, and calling it a "Mirage" (海市蜃楼)
http://weibo.com/1560923874/Bjzjrjlqd


On Weibo it's quite common to see the word "mirage" used to describe a photo of buildings in cloud. i.e. it's generally used figuratively.


The individual characters of 海市蜃楼 translate as

海 - Sea
市 - City
蜃 - Mirage
楼 - Floor
 
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Without doing any digging, I'd guess it's it might be an example of "looming".

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Looming_and_similar_refraction_phenomena
It's much too high in the sky. I think that part is simply CGI.

I was looking into this just the other day. There's another version of the video doing the rounds which includes snippets of a totally different video, filmed in Huangshan back in 2011. (The "above clouds" example quoted by Mick above.) That was picked up by several news sites as a "mirage" when all it was was, as explained, buildings visible in their normal place with the foreground obscured by mist.

http://aukiman.blogspot.co.uk/2011/06/huangshan-city-mirage-all-down-to-bad.html

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This video includes more apparently fake images from various locations, but also includes this image which appears to be real, but not a mirage:

upload_2015-10-20_16-27-2.png

This appears to be a shadow cast by a tower (with the sun behind it) onto low cloud or mist.
 
The UFOSightings2010 video is Oct 13th, but the Chinese media video is from Oct 9, so there must be earlier video without the chinese text over it.


Anyone seen earlier examples of the raw video?
 
My first thought was a reflection of the buildings behind the camera in the window pane in the front of the camera. Like this one in the train window:
6a705d21dd1aa2d0d5149721ab9d9f8a.jpg
 
This video includes more apparently fake images from various locations, but also includes this image which appears to be real, but not a mirage:

upload_2015-10-20_16-27-2.png

This appears to be a shadow cast by a tower (with the sun behind it) onto low cloud or mist.

Yes, I'd considered clouds shadows. But you would have to have a crazy odd set of circumstances for it to work, in this case, none of which seem to be there, and the geometry does not work out.

In most cloud shadows you get that 3D effect of streaks of light, as the shadow is volumetric.

I had considered adding it as an example of a "floating city" illusion, but could not find any good examples. There are some pretty effects though:
5d480727caaf22a18b3a5875017dc8e2.jpg
 
My first thought was a reflection of the buildings behind the camera in the window pane in the front of the camera. Like this one in the train window:
6a705d21dd1aa2d0d5149721ab9d9f8a.jpg

It's tricky to see how that could happen. The are looking down at the road, but up at the buildings.

Suppose though he were on top of a medium height building, there's a glass wall around the rim of the building, and behind him there's these much taller buildings partially obscured by cloud? That seems theoretically possible, if unlikely.
 
This older video shows some somewhat similar scenes:
Translation: "Chongqing city discovered mirage"

Cities in clouds are popular subjects in China
Translation: "Recently, Hong Kong fine mist of water before and after the early morning sunrise, Victoria Harbour Language among the clouds, like a mirage."

While both videos are obviously just a city in clouds, they are both described as "海市蜃楼", mirage. An image search for this word gives many other examples, largely of buildings rising above clouds, but also some Fata Morgana, as well as many artistic interpretations
https://www.google.com/search?q=海市蜃楼&num=50&es_sm=119&tbm=isch
 
It's unfortunate that maybe people leap for the "fata morgana" or other mirage explanation when it's quite clear that this is far too high in the sky to be anything like that.

On the national "news" program GOOD MORNING AMERICA this morning they gave the "fata morgana" explanation as the absolutely final and only possible one.
 
That last one, above, does look very like a reflection.
It's tricky to see how that could happen. The are looking down at the road, but up at the buildings.

Suppose though he were on top of a medium height building, there's a glass wall around the rim of the building, and behind him there's these much taller buildings partially obscured by cloud? That seems theoretically possible, if unlikely.

Here's a very quick and dirty proof of concept for compositing scenes with just a small glass slide. It's shakey because it's handheld, and the lighting is not ideal, but I still manage to get a house (kind of) floating in the sky.
 
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Interesting that the "video" is just a series of still images, with panning effects applied.

And apparently identical buildings (the large tower blocks) are shown at very different heights in the sky.

Edit: the photos are shown in their entirety here: http://french.china.org.cn/travel/txt/2015-06/15/content_35825788.htm

Look at the right-hand side here: it looks like a window frame, suggesting this is a reflection.

cffdea2ad150d6b54bb4cfd35458c77a.jpg

This picture also seems to include a piece of window frame at the extreme top left, plus a bright reflection at lower right and some water or dirt on glass at the top.

upload_2015-10-20_20-55-56.png

Judging from the foreground, this was taken in a car park, maybe from a bus?
 
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Interesting that the "video" is just a series of still images, with panning effects applied.

And apparently identical buildings (the large tower blocks) are shown both with what appears to be mist-shrouded ground at the base and suspended in the sky.
i'm getting confused. so.. are there 3 'videos'/photos (oct 7th in Fashon, Oct 12 th in Jiangxi, and June 12th in Hebei Chengde)?
with 'matching' buildings (somewhat) and matching cranes? My mind cant sort them :confused: I give up.

splice.PNG


http://mysteriousuniverse.org/2015/10/ghost-cities-mysteriously-appear-over-parts-of-china/

http://news21c.blog.fc2.com/blog-entry-6068.html
 
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Yes, this older example is almost certainly a reflection, you can see the image of the building continue in front of the hills.
 
i'm getting confused. so.. are there 3 'videos'/photos (oct 9th in Fashon, Oct 12 th in Jiangxi, and June 12th in Hebei Chengde)?
with 'matching' buildings (somewhat) and matching cranes? My mind cant sort them :confused: I give up.

splice.PNG

Different cities. The "cranes" in the Chengde one are utility poles or light poles, I think. And the buildings are different shapes, albeit in the standard Chinese tower block style :)

It's a shame there is no Street View in these places. I had a look at Panoramio pictures of Chengde but couldn't find the landmarks.
 
The "cranes" in the Chengde one are utility poles or light poles, I think
yea i meant the Oct '9th' and Oct 12th shots. Their buildings are different though and teh cranes are different levels. Could just be cranes are everywhere in China. :)
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sorry my link is wrong. it stated the 'from apartment' photo as Oct 12th but here it too is posted Oct 9th.

Howl’s floating buildings. A surprised man in Wuning County, Jiujiang City, Jiangxi Province managed to capture a so-called mirage that lasted 30 minutes. (Photos: SinaWeibo)
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Ive got the Jiangxi (?) photo from Oct 8th/7th too. http://news.sina.com.cn/s/wh/2015-10-09/doc-ifxirmpz8175608.shtml

October 8th, the reporter contacted photo shoot by Mr. Wu.Mr. Wu, who lives in Sha Tin District Wuning County.According to his memories, yesterday afternoon 5:00 pm, he was the balcony at home, suddenly found the sky clouds looming huge buildings in several places, was very surprised, and quickly using a mobile phone to take photos.
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Ive got the Jiangxi (?) photo from Oct 8th/7th too. http://news.sina.com.cn/s/wh/2015-10-09/doc-ifxirmpz8175608.shtml

October 8th, the reporter contacted photo shoot by Mr. Wu.Mr. Wu, who lives in Sha Tin District Wuning County.According to his memories, yesterday afternoon 5:00 pm, he was the balcony at home, suddenly found the sky clouds looming huge buildings in several places, was very surprised, and quickly using a mobile phone to take photos.
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That looks a reflection though a dual pane door (or window). Something that opens outwards, and can be angled to see in the other direction.
cdccf5bba26fece65531f79c7de6d9df.jpg

I've been taking photos of a ghost tree I saw in my backyard. It has a similar doubled up appearance due to the dual pane door. The door is opened out 45 degrees, so it shows what is to the side, not behind.

 
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A similar vdeo was posted claiming to be of Los Angeles.


The viewpoint is Marina del Rey, end of Bora Bora way, looking south.

I suspect this is computer generated.
 
This reminds me of the famous 'Silent City' photograph of 1888...
99032672085dd071488ff5c5dde4d7a0.jpg
Alaskan prospector Dick Willoughby claimed he snapped this photo in June 1888 while looking out over Muir Glacier in southeastern Alaska. He said that it showed a mirage of a "silent city" that could be seen emerging from the mists. He speculated that the city was actually the reflection of a real city thousands of miles away in Russia.

The photo attracted controversy in 1889 when San Francisco papers acquired copies of it. Photographic experts were skeptical, and Prof. Otto J. Klots, chief astronomer of the Department of the Interior at Ottawa, insisted that "such a thing as the reflections of a city thousands of miles away would be an utter impossibility."

Nevertheless Willoughby managed to sell thousands of copies of the picture and took many people on guided tours to see the mirage. However, when the San Francisco Examiner sent a correspondent to track down the mirage, he couldn't find anything.
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However in a good bit of Victorian debunking the truth soon came out.

The San Francisco Chronicle eventually solved the mystery when an employee of Wells Fargo notified them that he recognized the scene as the skyline of Bristol, England, "the view being from a public park on Brandon Hill. There is a Catholic cathedral there, the main building of which was completed about two centuries ago."

Apparently Willoughby had acquired a blurry photo of Bristol from a stranded English photographer, whose equipment he bought for $10, and he came up with the idea of passing off the photo as an image of a "silent city" mirage. Even after the photo had been debunked, interest in it (and the supposed mirage) continued. In 1890 Willoughby sold the negative to a San Francisco photographer for $500. Willoughby died two years later.
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For the record, here is the view from roughly the same location in the 1990's
064929c6efb526bf74a779f3abd7e01e.jpg
and a modern one
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I made this video later in the day, and it is closer to the video in question, in terms of color and lighting:
 
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Chinese media are also suggesting glass reflection:
http://news.mingpao.com/ins/instantnews/web_tc/article/20151009/s00004/1444367782486
(google Translate)

Video section of Foshan suspected mirage appeared recently in the online crazy pass, the movie is about 6 seconds, accused the day before yesterday (the 7th) shooting. Fragments seen blocks of high-rise buildings in the clouds appeared, very much like a mountain, but Foshan meteorological department said there was no monitoring of the mirage, but also refers to the conditions of the day does not have formed a mirage.

Foshan TV also reported yesterday, referring to receive public rebellion, the day before yesterday in Foshan Avenue and Quebec Church Road junction, the sky suddenly appeared a mirage, lasted about 30 minutes, but a fragment of a mirage appeared on the spread of the Internet had some.

Location mirage occurs also different opinions, some say in Shenzhen, Panyu, Dongguan, and even Shaanxi. Internet users also questioned the authenticity of the mirage that is the glass reflection effect with camera angles fraud.

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http://tech.gmw.cn/newspaper/2015-10/09/content_109472832.htm


Reporters search found that the first release and network transmission mirage video-related information is micro-channel circle of friends, but it can not be found who originally posted the video, and forward the video caught representation system seen from another person or group micro letter.

About this video on network locations vary, in addition to rumors of more Foshan, also in Shenzhen, Panyu, Dongguan and other places, but did not make specific locations. Yesterday, rumors of further fermentation, the evolution of Weihai, Shandong Penglai, Kunming's "spectacle."

Mirage small video widespread, but also caused a lot of photography, meteorological observations concern enthusiasts. On the Internet, a photography enthusiast named bear analysis, said: "In physics point of view, looking up like a mirage almost impossible; from a photography point of view, with a glass of fraud is too easy, besides the last place to see from the video, there was indeed Block transparent but reflective objects in front of the lens. So, I guess with a glass of that mirror. "

Guangdong Astronomical Society, Liu, director of the Guangdong astronomical observation base and the Geographical Society of China, the Guangdong astronomical observation base observer 何永杰 two professionals have questioned the authenticity of the video. He Yongjie speculated red reflex appearing in the video is the result of clear glass reflector, shoot the suspect who shot the video by means of a glass reflector, non-real "mirage."

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Chinese Debunking.

http://guoqing.china.com.cn/2015-10/09/content_36769566_4.htm

86cd9fa1225820f4e7a57614ad9a566e.jpg
October 8th, the reporter contacted photo shoot by Mr. Wu. Mr. Wu, who lives in Sha Tin District Wuning County. According to his memories, yesterday afternoon 5:00 pm, he was the balcony at home, suddenly found the sky clouds looming huge buildings in several places, was very surprised, and quickly using a mobile phone to take photos.
...
It is understood that a mirage is a phenomenon because of light refraction and total reflection formation, also referred to as the mirage, is a virtual image of the light reflected from an object on the Earth's atmosphere after the formation of refraction. Scene often occurs in coastal and sand, in the case of cities is very rare.

Jiangxi Wuning long discovered nearly half an hour when a mirage

Coincidentally, during the National Day, in addition to tornado visually stunning Foshan friends, a group of "Foshan discovered mirage?" Pictures in the micro channel circle of friends crazy pass, once again shocked the users. Photos in the clouds suddenly appeared intensive building, rather, "Pirates of the dream space" in the dreamy effect: quite similar to a "enchanted."

Foshan local TV yesterday (the 7th) reported that: about three p.m. today, some people say that rebellion, in Foshan Avenue and Quebec Church Road junction, west of the sky suddenly appeared a mirage spectacle, showing a mountain shape, and lasted 30 minutes.

Official Foshan Micro Signal "Foshan release" Today forwarding netizens questioned: "But in fact, everyone crazy pass mirage, passed around this period have opinions only launched a public voice of doubt but reportedly lasted 30 minutes before a video!!? "By searching the microblogging can be found, there is that mirage is photographed yesterday in greenery, there is said to be in Shunde, there are said to be in Panyu, Dongguan, Shenzhen, more say in Shaanxi , but also he did not say that any one person is his own shot.

Sign BOGY shows three questions, first, from the video can be seen to have a toll booth, while Foshan Avenue and Quebec Church Road junction no toll booths. Second, the emergence of video in many woods, while Foshan Avenue and Quebec Church Road junction along the full building.

Shunde a more professional photographer Bear said: "In physics point of view, looking up like a mirage almost impossible, from a photography point of view, with a glass of fraud is too easy, besides from last place to see the video, there was indeed transparent but reflective block objects. (popular point: glass) in front of the lens so I guess that is made with a glass mirror. "

He further pointed out: "Note the last second, lower right corner you can see a shadow shake out when moving the phone in front of the drop had confirmed that there is a block in front of a transparent thing, and a drop of water above the short, since. between the phone and the sky can be analyzed via a glass glass either transparent, but also reflected the image behind the photographer knows that across the glass camera, if the previous things bright enough, the image on the rear glass can be ignored;!. If the front dark, rear building glass reflects very prominent, which is building the clouds part, can see clearly the reason. "


ceafde46d457f6e0402e2395a032f0a6.jpg

A similar situation has actually occurred. Some Internet users in the ride before westerly departure from Guangzhou South Railway Station on Wuhan-Guangzhou high-speed rail, through the glass to see the Guangzhou waistline, above the clouds and saw the vague outline of the building. Since then westerly again take the same high-speed rail, but also saw a similar situation, in fact, reflective effect glass.

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Trying to pin down the location. Strange Google Translation issue here:

Foshan TV also reported yesterday, referring to receive public rebellion, the day before yesterday in Foshan Avenue and Quebec Church Road junction, the sky suddenly appeared a mirage
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"Quebec Church Road" is actually 魁奇路, which is Kuiqi Road.

The location would appear to be the intersection of this road with Foshan Avenue (Fo Shan Da Dao Zhong), which is here (Chinese Google Maps has a deliberate offset between the mapping and the satellite imagery).

upload_2015-10-21_18-30-28.png
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I haven't had any luck matching up features in the video with this area, though. There appears to be some kind of roof (maybe a covered toll plaza?) across the highway in this image:

 
Yeah, from the quote above:
Sign BOGY shows three questions, first, from the video can be seen to have a toll booth, while Foshan Avenue and Quebec Church Road junction no toll booths. Second, the emergence of video in many woods, while Foshan Avenue and Quebec Church Road junction along the full building.
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It's interesting that the Chinese stories mostly report that the conditions are not right for a mirage, and it would be physically impossible anyway, and that a reflection was likely. And yet the Western media reported it as if this was a settled matter, a fata morgana viewed by thousands of people.
 
Slightly better quality video, attached:
 

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  • 连云港海市蜃楼,转发带来好运。.mp4
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The fata morgana explanation has been promoted with quotes from Atomospheric Sciences professor Kenneth Bowman, who gives a detailed explanation of what a fata morgana is. Unfortunately this was quoted in such a way that it seems like he though this was the explanation here. When I contacted him about this he said:

I had not see the actual photos when the reporter called me. She told me it was a Fata Morgana and asked me to explain what a Fata Morgana is.

I suspect that you are correct. It looks too real to be a Fata Morgana.
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So no expert has actually looked at this video and said it was a fata morgana, and they won't because it's obviously not.
 
Good analysis by Captain Disillusion, who sides with computer generated fake.

I'm still going with a reflection.
 
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