THIS strange figure in the sky looks like a phantom.

But it is actually a natural phenomenon known as a Brocken spectre.

The picture was taken by Hereford Times Camera Club member Andreia Andreia while she was walking on the Malvern Hills on the Herefordshire-Worcestershire border at the weekend.

She said: "It was the first time I [have seen] the phenomenon called the Brocken spectre."

Andreia, who took the picture on her mobile phone, added: "It was spectacular!"


According to the Met Office, the spectre is named after the German mountain on which is was first noticed, and is really a large shadow of the observer cast onto cloud or mist.

"When an observer stands on a hill which is partially enveloped in mist and in such a position that their shadow is thrown on to the mist, they may get the illusion that the shadow is a person seen dimly through the mist.

"The illusion is that this person or 'spectre' is gigantic and at a considerable distance away from them."

The Met Office says the magnification of the shadow is an optical illusion which makes the shadow on nearby clouds seem at the same distance at faraway landmarks seen through the cloud.

"Similarly, the shadow falls upon water droplets of varying distance which distorts perception and can make the shadow appear to move as the clouds vary and shift. This all combines to make the rather disorienting effect of a giant shadow moving in the distance."

The spectre has been mentioned in works of literature by the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (The Rime of the Ancient Mariner) and novelists Charles Dickens (Olive Twist) and Lewis Carroll (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland) among others.