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Blue 'alien' hue that looks like something out of a sci-fi film appears over California beach

// Headline
  • The glow hovering above the ocean is caused by an algae bloom known as a red tide
  • A chemical reaction caused by the movement of algae turns it neon blue

By Tara Brady

PUBLISHED: 05:12 EST, 22 April 2013 | UPDATED: 06:19 EST, 22 April 2013

They may look like a scene from the sci-fi movie Contact but in fact these incredible photos which could have been taken on a different planet are of a Californian beach. 

The eerie out-of-this world glow hovering above the ocean is caused by a bioluminescent algae bloom commonly known as a red tide. 

But a chemical reaction caused by the movement of the algae turns it neon blue.

Outer space: Photographer Charles Leung captured this rare phenomenon on a pitch-black night at West Linda Mar bay in Pacifica, California

Outer space: Photographer Charles Leung captured this rare phenomenon on a pitch-black night at West Linda Mar bay in Pacifica, California

The images are reminiscent of the climatic scene in the film Contact when Jodie Foster's character, scientist Dr Eleanor Arroway, finds herself on a mysterious, idyllic beach with a sky blazing with stars near the core of the galaxy.

In the film, which was adapted from the Carl Sagan novel of the same name, Dr Arroway monitors extraterrestrial life and receives messages from space.

Photographer Charles Leung, 33, was able to capture this rare phenomenon on a pitch-black night at West Linda Mar bay in Pacifica, California.

The glow is not considered dangerous but has been known to cause problems for swimmers and surfers who breath the air close to the surface of the water.

Eerie: These images wouldn't look out of place in the 1997 hit movie Contact which starred Jodie Foster

Eerie: These images wouldn't look out of place in the 1997 hit movie Contact which starred Jodie Foster

On a different planet: The blue glow is is known as red tide but when it reacts with algae it turns blue

On a different planet: The blue glow is is known as red tide but when it reacts with algae it turns blue

Out of this world: The glow is not considered dangerous but can cause breathing problems for swimmers

Out of this world: The glow is not considered dangerous but can cause breathing problems for swimmers

Mr Leung, from San Francisco, said: 'It was so dark to the point that there was a risk of the stars "trailing" as I was forced to use a longer exposure time than I normally use.

'The yellow sky and blue waves sort of remind me of something from an alien planet - the colours actually made a great contrast.

'This unusual 'glow wave' is caused by algae in the water and when disturbed it gives this brilliant fluorescent blue light.

'At night there is an increase in microscopic plankton called dynoflagellates which glow in the dark when disturbed by currents or waves.

'The extraordinary light show of turquoise glowing waves breaking along the shoreline at night is certainly a sight to behold.'

Climatic: In the film Contact Jodie Foster's character finds herself on a beach with a mysterious blue glow near the core of the galaxy

Climatic: In the film Contact Jodie Foster's character finds herself on a beach with a mysterious blue glow near the core of the galaxy

Sci-fi: Jodie Foster starred in the 1997 sci-fi Contact and played Dr Eleanor Arroway receives messages from space

Sci-fi: Jodie Foster starred in the 1997 sci-fi Contact and played Dr Eleanor Arroway receives messages from space

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