10 Strangest Sights on Google Earth
by Live Science Staff | February 24, 2016 11:05am ET
The Earth, Google Style
Credit: NASA/NOAA GOES Project, Dennis Chesters
Google Earth compiles images from various sources, from satellites in geosynchronous orbit that snap low-resolution photos from tens of thousands of miles above Earth, to satellites closer to Earth that capture higher-resolution shots and even aerial photos taken from airplanes, kites, drones and even balloons. The imagery is available to anyone who downloads the software, and archaeologists have taken advantage of the rich resource.
From a boneyard of military planes, to a polka-dot pattern created by ants, to mysterious structures etched into the Gobi Desert and even a phantom island in the South Pacific, Google Earth brings some wacky places to light. Here’s a look at some of the strangest.
(Originally published on LiveScience on April 18, 2013.)
Credit: Image courtesy Google Earth)
Google Earth has spied some old artistry etched into the surface of the planet, including wheel-shaped structures that may date back some 8,500 years, making them older than Peru’s geoglyphs called Nazca Lines. Some of these spoked designs that dot Jordan’s Azraq Oasis seem to be positioned in a way that aligns with sunrise on the winter solstice. A team of scientists with the Aerial
Credit: via Google Earth
In 2012, a group of Australian researchers “undiscovered” an island the size of Manhattan in the South Pacific. A mysterious place called Sandy Island had popped up on maps, northwest of New Caledonia. It even showed up as a black polygon onGoogle Earth. But when scientists sailed there in November 2012, they found open water instead of solid ground.
In an obituary for the island published in April 2013, the researchers explained why the phantom landmass had been included on some maps for more than a century, pointing to some human errors and a possible pumice raft.
Lake of blood?
Credit: Cnes/Spot Image, Digital Globe, GeoEye, Google
Outside Sadr City in Iraq, at coordinates 33.396157° N, 44.486926° E, lies a blood-red lake. There is, as yet, no official explanation for the color of this strange body of water.
Credit: Google Earth
An odd polka-dot pattern near the cinder cone volcano dubbed Vulcan’s Throne on the north rim of the Grand Canyon may have a simple explanation: ants. Turns out, the desert around the Grand Canyon is home to red harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex barbatus). These pesky critters can create nesting mounds spanning some 47 inches (120 centimeters) across and are typically surrounded by bare ground up to 108 square feet (10 square meters), according to physicist Amelia Carolina Sparavigna, a specialist in image processing and satellite imagery analysis at the Politecnico of Torino in Ital. Sparavigna discusses her theory in a scientific paper posted online on Jan. 11, 2016
. (The paper has yet to be peer-reviewed.) The mounds may be responsible for the aerial pattern of scattered circles, though Sparavigna says on-the-ground confirmation is needed.
Credit: Digital Globe, GeoEye, Google
The world’s largest island-in-a-lake-on-an-island-in-a-lake-on-an-island is a narrow, four-acre strip of land in Canada located at exactly 69.793° N, 108.241° W. The nameless island (that little-tilde shaped squiggle of green) lolls across the center of a small lake, which is itself encapsulated by a slightly larger island. That resides inside one of a series of long finger lakes located 75 miles inland from the southern coast of Victoria Island, a land feature in Northern Canada. This little “sub-sub-sub island” would never have received its strange distinction if not for careful trolling of Google Earth by map geeks around the world. In all likelihood, no human has ever actually set foot there. [Zoom through the island layers
The Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Ariz., is where U.S. military planes go to die. Dubbed “the boneyard,” this 2,600-acre cemetery of steel at coordinates 32 08’59.96″ N, 110 50’09.03″W is closed to the general public, but Google Earth provides a high-resolution glimpse of what’s inside: virtually every plane the military has flown since World War II — from the B-52 StratoFortress to the F-14 Tomcat — in various stages of decay. A bit of trivia: The boneyard at Davis Monthan was used as the backdrop in the music video for “Learning to Fly” by rock music legend Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The band was shown performing amongst various aircraft hulks.
Credit: Digital Globe, Google
Newfound Google Earth images have revealed an array of mysterious structures and patterns etched into the surface of China’s Gobi Desert. According to experts, this is a secret military base, and the structures are used for a variety of purposes including weapons testing, spy satellite calibration and testing of radar instrumentation. The most elaborate feature, an intricate grid of perfectly straight lines that weave back and forth every few hundred feet for 20 miles (33 kilometers), is most likely a Yagi antenna array, a device used for weather tracking and other atmospheric research. [More Photos: Strange Structures in China’s Gobi Desert
Credit: Digital Globe, Google
These luscious lips are a hill formation located in Gharb, Darfur, in Sudan at coordinates 12°22’13.32″N, 23°19’20.18″E.
Credit: Sensis Pty Ltd, Digital Globe, Google
In Australia, at coordinates 30°30’38.44″S 115°22’56.03″E, a strange triangle dotted with bright lights appears in the middle of a field. When first discovered in 2007, ufologists were quick to call it a “triangle UFO” caught in the act of hovering above Earth. Other Google Earth users say it may be an antenna associated with a nearby remote-controlled wind farm. With three sets of wires forming a triangle, and a tower in the middle, the antenna likely receives and transmits control signals.
Credit: Google Maps
On the wind-blown steppes of central Asia, in an isolated corner of Kazakhstan, there’s a large pentagram, measuring roughly 1,200 feet (366 meters) in diameter, etched into Earth’s surface. The five-pointed star surrounded by a circle, located on the southern shore of the Upper Tobol Reservoir, shows up vividly on Google Maps, the online version of the more detailed Google Earth.
Many online comments linked the site with devil worship, nefarious religious sects or denizens of the underworld. Alas, the pentagram turns out to be the outline of a park made in the form of a star; the star is marked by roadways that are now lined with trees, making the star shape even more distinct in aerial photos.