Located at the border between Gansu and Xinjiang. Click to investigate.
A white cross, located in Casa Grande, Ariz. is used by the US to calibrate its spy satellites. Click to investigate.
The most intriguing of the satellite images (shown above), which made waves around the internet on Tuesday, baffled armchair detectives around the world with its seemingly random pattern and colossal size. Hundreds of self-styled “Google Maps Experts” pored over the image trying to find a pattern, and prevailing theories were the structure could be used as attack targets for drones, weapons testing sites, or even a mock-up of the streets of New York or Washington D.C.
However, Jonathon Hill, a research technician at the Mars Space Flight Facility at Arizona State University, says those theories are bunk.
The actual purpose is simple satellite calibration. Though rather benign when compared to the other theories, don’t put away your tinfoil hats just yet, because these aren’t any ordinary satellites, but spy satellites. When a satellite passes over the region, it uses the zig-zag of lines to orient itself in preparation for its next mission.
The United States has similar satellites and also similar patterns painted on the ground for the same purpose — though the measly, boring crosshair found on Google Maps near Casa Grande, Arizona, when contrasted against China’s 1 mile^2 of random crap, sheds light on just how incredibly low-tech and low-resolution China’s spy satellites must be.
Fighter aircraft are clearly visible in this structure, which is used to experiment with radar masking. Click to investigate.
As for another image which seemed to show Stonehedge on crack with a detachment of fighter jets chilling out in the center, Jonathon Hill has an explanation for that as well.
“This is almost certainly a calibration/test target for orbital radar instruments. Since a significant amount of radar return is due to differences in surface roughness, they’re probably testing ways of making the areas around planes ‘bumpy’ enough that the planes are partially masked.”
So there you have it folks. No aliens, no preparations for an attack on DC, and no Chinese superhuman laboratory. Truth can still be just as interesting as fiction, though, as the proximity of all of these sites to each other suggests this could be a glimpse of China’s equivalent to Area 51. Which, if we follow typical shanzhai naming conventions, is probably called Area 61.