Why Was There A Ship Floating In Mid-Air At A Golf Tournament?

Good news: Scotland is not under attack by flying boats.

1. This is a picture from TV coverage of the Scottish Open golf tournament in Aberdeen that appears to show a large ship floating in the air above spectators’ heads.

2. This has, understandably, confused some TV viewers.

4. So, er, what’s going on?

5. It’s almost certainly due to an astmospheric optical effect called “looming”, similar to mirages.

Tom Phillips/BuzzFeed/ilyast/syntika/Thinkstock

Most common when a layer of warm air passes over a cold body of water, looming is caused by the refraction of light as it passes through air of different densities. This bends the light, making it appear to the observer that objects on (or even below) the horizon are elevated in the air. It can also make them appear much larger.

6. In this case, that effect is accentuated by the fact that the pictures are close cropped versions of an already heavily zoomed picture.

A flying ship at the Aberdeen Scottish Open

— Mark Rowan (@RT_Swift27)

BuzzFeed reached out to Sky Sports, the UK broadcaster of the Scottish Open, for comment. A Sky Sports spokesperson denied that it was a flying ship, and added, “This is a ridiculous story.”

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Tom Phillips is the UK editorial director for BuzzFeed and is based in London.
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