PICTURES of what appears to be cruise ships hovering above water have been captured as the result of a rare optical illusion off of Bournemouth beach.

Bournemouth Echo: Lyn Moreland captured this shot from her Boscombe balconyLyn Moreland captured this shot from her Boscombe balcony

In the afternoon and evening of Wednesday, March 17, cruise ships Anthem of the Seas and Jewel of the Seas were spotted seemingly hovering above the sea.

Bournemouth Echo: Photo by Debby FreemanPhoto by Debby Freeman

Many people captured photos of the rare spectacle, with some sharing them on the Echo Camera Club page.

A BBC article from earlier this month states that a superior mirage like this occurs because of "special atmospheric conditions that bend light".

According to BBC meteorologist David Braine, the illusion is common in the Arctic, but is something that appears "very rarely" in the UK during winter.

Bournemouth Echo: Photo by Steve DayPhoto by Steve Day

He said: “Superior mirages occur because of the weather condition known as a temperature inversion, where cold air lies close to the sea with warmer air above it.

“Since cold air is denser than warm air, it bends light towards the eyes of someone standing on the ground or on the coast, changing how a distant object appears.”

Bournemouth Echo: Photo by Sue CampionPhoto by Sue Campion

Did you see the mirage yesterday?