In 2017, over 350 satellites were launched into orbit. They’re used for communication, the observation of the Earth, the observation of space, and other purposes. The first artificial satellite launched—Sputnik 1—was launched in 1957 by the USSR.
In the past 60 years, roughly 7,900 manmade satellites have been launched. True, less than half are currently operational, but what that means is that there are over 1700 operational artificial satellites looking down on our planet. So what are those satellites doing?
Mostly, they’re used to facilitate communication, and they’re largely for commercial use. Militaries around the world use satellites too, of course.
The satellites are also observing the Earth. In fact, surveillance was the point of the first military satellites launched; they captured images using—believe it or not—film cameras.
Nowadays, if a satellite takes a picture of the Earth, it is usually pretty darn clear what is in the image. However, that’s not always the case, and there have been images of the Earth captured that just haven’t been explained yet—at least not fully explained.
1. The Gobi Desert patterns
Let’s start with one satellite image that has more-or-less been explained, although maybe not fully.
Located in the Gobi Desert, which is found in the north and northwestern portions of China as well as a portion of Mongolia, are strange structures that were found by find a satellite used by Google Maps in about 2011 or so. The white lines intersecting at strange angles and zigzagging led to a lot of speculation. Burned cars and planes nearby led to further speculation of a malevolent military purpose to the lines.
We don’t know if the purpose is truly malevolent, but the lines are purportedly nothing more than manmade structures created for the purpose of orientating Chinese satellites. Of course, China isn’t exactly known as a country for being totally forthcoming, so we can’t be one hundred percent sure that we’re correct.
2. The Snow Saddle of Nepal
Located in Nepal’s Himalayas is one of the Earth’s tallest mountains, Kangtega. Also referred to as the “Snow Saddle”, the mountain is known primarily for the fact it can’t be viewed on Google Maps. The site is blacked out. Why?
Well, no one really knows for sure.
There are a number of reasons why Google might blur or black out an area. For example, there is a high-security prison in Ireland that is blurred in order to prevent the escape of prisoners. In Holland, there is an air force base used for United States’ nuclear bombs; that air base has been blocked from view.
In regard to The Snow Saddle, it is highly likely that Kangtega being blurred is as a result of a dispute between Nepal and China. Of course, it could just be because of the weather conditions on the very tall mountain.
3. Sandy Island
Sandy Island is what is referred to as a non-existent island, which means that the island appeared on maps at one point (as it was believed to exist), but no longer does (because it actually doesn’t).
In the case of Sandy Island, it was even noted on satellite images.
Sandy Island was first “spotted” by British explorer James Cook, who was a captain in the Royal Navy, in September of 1774. The existence of Sandy Island was noted by others in the 19th century—a whaling ship reported it in 1876—and even appeared on nautical charts.
The existence of the island, which was supposed to be about the size of Manhattan, was disproven in November of 2012 by Australian scientists on a research vessel.
The real mystery here is why the island was labeled on Google Maps’ mapping service until November of 2012. Shouldn’t the tech giant’s satellites have been able to confirm that a relatively large island didn’t actually exist?
4. The Triangle of the Nevada desert
There are concentric circles inside a triangle in the remote deserts of Nevada, which can be viewed from the satellites above. So what is it? Well, no one actually knows for sure. The general consensus is that it is a military structure, potentially used by United States military pilots when practicing bombing, so therefore part of some sort of military structure. The location of the triangle and the circles inside are believed to be inside of Area 51, which is a highly classified and detached portion of a United States Air Force Base in California. If the Triangle is indeed part of Area 51, that makes it all the more interesting.
The airspace above Area 51 is highly restricted, so most can only speculate exactly what Area 51—also known as Groom Lake—is actually used for. Conspiracy theorists believe that it might be used to store and reverse engineer alien spaceships that have crashed on Earth; naturally, however, this has never been proven.
Other theories suggest it may be used as a way of testing weather control or even time travel.
5. The Badlands Guardian
Located in an area of Alberta, Canada, the Badlands are part of the “Wild West” of Canada. Known for unique rock formations and landscapes, the area is also home to—and the source of many fossils— including dinosaur bones.
It is also known for the face that appears from a certain portion of the landscape when viewed from above. Really, the face is probably just the result of erosion and other natural phenomena, but it is worth checking out on Google Earth. The coordinates are 50.010611,-110.113422.
It even looks like face is wearing the sort of headdress one might expect an ancient resident of the region to be wearing.
6. Tremintina Base
Found in Tremintina, New Mexico, Tremintina Base is affiliated with the Church of Spiritual Technology—or CST for short—which manages copyright for the Church of Scientology.
If you’re unfamiliar with Scientology, which is more-or-less a system of religious beliefs, it was developed by a science fiction writer back in the 1950’s. The religion is reportedly very powerful in Hollywood, and many scientologists believe in UFOs and extraterrestrial beings, one of whom is apparently called Xenu. Xenu, if you’re curious, was reportedly the dictator of a group called The Galactic Confederacy.
Anyway, from above, the base appears to depict bizarre symbols. The base’s circles and diamonds are allegedly the place to which future scientologists will return—from wherever in time and/or space they managed to travel to!
Also, the base allegedly houses Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s writings and films so that they aren’t lost to future generations, because that would apparently be a tragedy for some reason. Apparently security there is extraordinarily tight, and the base even has its own airstrip!
7. The Antarctic Ice Circle
It is truly fantastic that satellites can capture views of Antarctica, as it is a place few of us will ever get to visit. Really, how many of us would want to? Getting to see Antarctic penguins in their natural habitat sounds fun, but otherwise I don’t see the appeal of visiting that particular continent. The coldest and driest place on Earth? I’ll pass, thanks.
There’s a strange and extremely large circular shape when viewing a portion of Antarctica from above. Why is it there? No one really knows. Global warming has been suggested as a cause, or even the spot where a meteor hit the Earth. At point, it could have been a meltwater lake, which is currently the most likely explanation. Only time will tell if the mystery of the Antarctic Ice Circle will ever be conclusively solved.
8. Kondyor Massif, Russia
Found in the northwestern portion of Russia, Kondyor Massif is an excellent source of platinum as well as an erosion-caused landmass that—from above—appears to be an almost perfect circle. It is also a source of other precious metals, including silver, copper, and gold.
What’s curious about this impressive spot of Earth is that satellite maps of the surrounding area are very low-detail as well as low-resolution. Why this is the case is anybody’s guess; if I had to guess, however, I’d guess that some organization is trying to protect the mineral deposits.
9. The Atacama Glyphs
Enormous glyphs, the largest of which is almost 300 feet long, were once carved into Chile’s Atacama desert. The largest is known as the Atacama Giant, and it looks more or less like a human being, albeit one with really skinny legs and arms.
There are over 5,000 glyphs carved into the harsh, vast landscape that is the Atacama Desert. It has been suggested that aliens created them, but the fact of the matter is that the glyphs were likely carved by various cultures who made the Atacama Desert home over the course of several hundreds of years, starting in about 1000 AD. The Atacama Giant is likely the depiction of a deity who was worshiped by one of those cultures. Other glyphs may have served to point out the locations of water sources and other necessities.
The Atacama Desert, which also extends into portions of Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina is actually one of the driest places on Earth, which completely explains why people living there would need the glyphs to point out sources of water. In fact, with the exception of polar deserts, it is the driest desert on our planet.
10. The Caspian Sea’s Underwater Streaks
For a while there, scientists were perplexed by strange lines crisscrossing the waters North Caspian Sea’s coast. The Caspian Sea—famous for being the Earth’s largest lake—has coastlines shared by numerous countries, including Iran, Kazakhstan, and Russia.
Images of mysterious and gigantic lines and marks—thousands of them—were once speculated to be caused by plant life in the sea. Unfortunately for conspiracy theorists, it has never been suggested that they were created by aliens or cultists.
The fact of the matter is that ice is the culprit. It forms on the sea in the winter; as the result of wind, it then scrapes the sea bed. The ice melts and disappears, but the scrapes do not.
The cause of the scrapes is not terribly interesting, perhaps; but the end result of the ice is quite pretty to look at via satellite.
11. The HAARP Site
The High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, or HAARP, was established by branches of the United States military, a Department of Defense agency, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Why? Well, the goal was to study the ionosphere, which is a part of the Earth’s upper atmosphere that happens to be ionized, hence the name.
The government’s involvement in the project has ended, although the facility’s ownership was transferred to the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 2015.
Satellite images of the facility are blurred out, which probably just makes conspiracy theorists even more convinced that the true purpose of HAARP was to weaponize our planet’s weather. It has been blamed for creating disasters in countries all over the world. It may even be responsible, conspiracy theorists claim, for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
12. The Desert Wheels of Jordan
There are two mysterious patterns shaped like wheels in Wadi Wisad, which is located in the country of Jordan. The geoglyphs, which aren’t really noticeable from the ground but definitely are from the air, are particularly interesting because they’re estimated to be about 8,500 years old.
Similar “wheels” have been found in nearby locations.
The reason why pre-historic people built the structures is obviously unknown; there’s a good chance they were used as burial monuments—people may have lived in the region back then. It has also been theorized that they were built with an astronomical purpose in mind, possibly to align with the sunrise during the time of the Winter solstice.
We have nothing against the Middle East or Israel, obviously; however, it seems likely that if the world were to end, it would be as the result of an action taken by or on behalf of one of the countries in that region.
Which is why it is a bit concerning that literally the entire country of Israel is blurred out on Google Maps.
The reason? In the late 90’s, Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act, a section of which pertains to Israel. In short, high resolution images of Israel are prohibited from being from being displayed. Google Earth images are typically sourced from United States-based companies, and therefore subject to the laws of the United States.
Do note that the United States can only regulate US-based companies; so if a company without ties to the United States decided to get images of Israel (and certain Palestinian territories), images of that region might not always be blurry.