These optical illusions are out of this world

In nature, things often aren't what they seem. And if you want a mind-bending optical illusion, you don't necessarily have to look for moving animations or complicated Photoshop trickery. Sometimes, the good stuff is right in front of you. 

And that's the case with the optical illusions we've gathered here, which all involve some element of the natural world. If these whet your appetite for more, see our general best optical illusions page.

01. Floating boat optical illusion

The photo of the floating ship

(Image credit: Martin Stroud)

This illusion was spotted in Cornwall, UK, where a ship seemed to be floating in the sky. This phenomenon is called thermal inversion, and occurs when the sun hits the cold sea, causing abnormal refraction, which makes distant objects appear as if they're just hanging around in the sky. We can rationalise it all we like, but we still think we'd be shocked if we saw this out in the wild.

02. Galactic overlap optical illusion

A photo of two galaxies appearing to collide in space

(Image credit: European Space Agency)

We're still getting over this discovery of an optical illusion in space, captured by the Hubble Space Telescope in September last year. What you're seeing above is two galaxies, more than a billion lightyears away from Earth, which look as if they've combined to create one giant super-galaxy. That's not actually the case though, the two galaxies are apparently "brushing past one-another" rather then merging together. 

03. Three-headed deer illusion

Deer optical illusion

(Image credit: Renatas Jakaitis)

Like the illusions above, this one was captured entirely by accident. Renatas Jakaitis, a photographer in Lithuania, captured what looks like a three-headed deer in the woods of Penevezys County. What's actually happened here is that these are three separate deer, but they all turned to the camera at the same time thanks to the sound of Jakaitis' camera shutter. We've been trying to replicate this one ever since we saw it, but we've failed miserably, mostly because we've yet to come across any deer in the wild. 

04. Nintendo's Zelda sky illusion

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Okay so this one doesn't exactly take place in the natural world, but it does involve the sky, so we thought it was worth mentioning. Did you know that the sky in Zelda isn't exactly as it seems? It's actually just a small rotating cube, as the tweet above explains. We'll never look at it the same way. 

If you're looking for more things to baffle your brain, then don't miss our recent story on these AI party images, which will stay with you for longer than you think.

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Rosie Hilder

Rosie Hilder is Creative Bloq's Deputy Editor. After beginning her career in journalism in Argentina – where she worked as Deputy Editor of Time Out Buenos Aires – she moved back to the UK and joined Future Plc in 2016. Since then, she's worked as Operations Editor on magazines including Computer Arts, 3D World and Paint & Draw and Mac|Life. In 2018, she joined Creative Bloq, where she now assists with the daily management of the site, including growing the site's reach, getting involved in events, such as judging the Brand Impact Awards, and helping make sure our content serves the reader as best it can.