As much as we know about Earth, there are still so many beautiful mysteries that defy explanation. Phenomena like the Northern Lights and other serendipitous displays of nature’s wonder make perfect sense scientifically, but they remain magical events that most of us can’t wrap our heads around.
There are optical illusions all around us, and some of them are so astonishing, you could lose your mind trying to figure out what you’re looking at. Check out some of the world’s craziest phenomena in these 16 incredible photos.
1. The island of Mauritius and its “underwater waterfall” is caused by a combination of silt and sand deposits.
2. This is the Fallstreak hole. It’s an atmospheric phenomenon caused by supercooled water droplets crystallizing in the air.
3. These kids aren’t diving into the abyss, they’re actually jumping into the crystal-clear waters of the Well of Jacob in Texas.
4. That’s not the sky behind those trees, it’s a sand dune tinted an orangey red.
5. Nacreous clouds make the sky look like an abstract painting.
6. The appearance of three suns is caused by light reflecting off of ice particles in the air in very low temperatures.
7. Arizona’s Vermillion Cliffs is home to these undulating hills of compressed sandstone. The beautiful pattern is just a happy accident caused by the layers of color in the stone.
8. No, it’s not a dead tree branch in the snow, it’s actually a river reaching the barrenness of the desert in Baja California, Mexico.
9. The reflection off of the glassy waters on the bank of Glen Canyon look like a steep cliff, but luckily, it’s nothing as dangerous as that.
10. This giant stone elephant drinking from the ocean is really just an illusion created by the angle of the picture taken of a rock formation off the coast of Iceland.
11. The fiery tornado appearance of the Rio Tinto in Spain looks like a column of flames, but it’s actually due to a chemical reaction that occurs there.
12. These beautiful rolling hills look like an impressionistic painting.
13. These clouds undulate like waves in the sky.
14. In China, mountains that date back 24 million years are striped like a plush blanket. Their appearance is caused by deposits of red sandstone.
15. Nope, that’s not a waterfall of lava. When the light catches the water at Horse Tail Falls, they appear as a streak of flames rushing down the rock face.
16. In East Antarctica, Blood Falls is caused by iron deposits in the melting glacier as it makes its way down the ice.
What an awesome display of nature. We wonder how many undiscovered optical illusions we’ve yet to find…
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