There's an urban myth / story that you can see the tower from Norah head. One website claims to have a photo of it but it's hard to know if it's photoshopped and the comments certainly seem to argue it.

Can anyone find scientific or irrefutable proof that it's possible, save me driving out there on the next clear Saturday and trying myself?

  • If you can prove either, I'd be happy
    – Mark Mayo
    Feb 20, 2017 at 1:07
  • When at the Sydney Tower Skywalk staff claimed on a good visibility day you can see the Norah peninsula. I had no suspicions that this claim was untrue.
    – medina
    Feb 20, 2017 at 9:07

3 Answers 3


This article on sdsu.edu explains the various factors involved in how far you can see towards the horizon. Besides the straight line distance, temperature and other artefacts of the atmosphere result in refraction that may allow an observer to see beyond the straight line distance at certain times.

According to the author's javascript calculator, two objects 74km apart where the tower is 305m ASL and the car park is 14m ASL puts the tower apparently below the horizon:

Finally, we find the apparent altitude of the target: −2.79 minutes of arc = −0.047 degrees of arc.


In your case, the dip of the sea horizon is 6.51 minutes of arc, or 0.109 degrees. These values place the target 3.72 minutes of arc, or 0.062 degrees, above the apparent sea horizon. The target is easily visible.

Reducing the target object altitude to 250m, the calculator still says that the object could be visible.

In your case, the dip of the sea horizon is 6.51 minutes of arc, or 0.109 degrees. These values place the target 1.18 minutes of arc, or 0.020 degrees, above the apparent sea horizon. The target is visible.

According to this smh.com.au article:

Our guides tell us at night you can see Norah Head lighthouse on the Central Coast.

We're standing 260 metres above Sydney

Norah head lighthouse is 28m ASL, so seems likely that if that is true, so is the original photographer's observation (or theory).

Answer: yes


It is possible and I have been doing it for a number of years . The right conditions for this only happen a few times a year , as Im from the area

  • Welcome to Travel Stack Exchange. While we value personal experience on this site, the OP specifically asked for scientific or irrefutable proof which this is not.
    – Glorfindel
    Jun 17, 2017 at 8:16

No, you can not. The photo is clearly fake, and in fact their "proof" that it's real is actually proof that it's fake.

The proof shown states that the tower is based on the fact that the "target hidden height" is 288 metres, and the tower is thus visible because it's 305 meters high.

The problem with this logic is that the TOP of the tower - specifically the top of the highest antenna - is ~309 metres high - NOT the portion shown in the image. Of course, that ignores the fact the base of the tower is higher than sea level - the top of the tower is actually 327 metres above sea level.

However, if you ignore the spire, the top of the tower is around 30 metres lower - or about 295 metres above sea level.

Thus based on the calculations in the linked article, even if you were positioned 14 metres above sea level at Norah Head, at most only the very top of the tower plus the spire would be visible. Thus the photo is clearly fake.

  • 2
    That might indicate that the photo is fake, but not that you can't see it. SO while you've disproved the link, it hasn't properly answered the question hasn't it? Also as @pnuts says, mirages can cause visibility at times, but I'd be happy to ignore it. Commentors also say the maths in the linked article is wrong, so it's hard to know if we can even use the maths in the article :/
    – Mark Mayo
    Feb 20, 2017 at 0:38
  • Using their own math against them shows that it's NOT visible, beyond possibly the spire - and realistically at that distance you would need a perfectly clear day to be able to make out the spire, and over water that's just not going to happen.
    – Doc
    Feb 20, 2017 at 0:54

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