On October 4th, 1957, the world changed forever. On that date, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics launched Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite ever sent into orbit around planet earth. The full ramifications of that launch would not be clear for decades — indeed we may yet be many years from a comprehensive understanding of the potential of satellite technology — but the scientific, military, and commercial opportunities created by manmade satellites were immediately exciting. And frightening. Weaponized satellites would be the ultimate weapon, nearly impossible to counter and able to strike anywhere at almost anytime.
The first major application of orbiting satellites as a military tool came not as weapon systems, but for surveillance. The first surveillance satellites combined space age technology (e.g. the orbiting satellite itself) with traditional film cameras; they would orbit the earth snapping pictures and then send a physical payload of film back down to be recovered and developed. Later satellites used telemetry, the process of recording an image (or sound or video or other types of data) and transmitting it back to another source remotely. This is of course the way satellites function in our era. But whether snapped and transmitted yesterday or recorded on film in the early days of space flight, a select group of satellite images share a common attribute: the images they captured have yet to be explained.
15. The Antarctic Ice Circle
Recent satellite overflights of the earth’s southernmost continent have captured some images scientists have yet to fully comprehend. The pictures from early 2017 show a massive circular shape on the glaciated surface of a portion of Antarctica that could be caused by climate change, by peculiar winds, or by some decidedly more occult causes, if various conspiracy theorists are to be believed (which they are not). According to some hypotheses, the Antarctic ice circle could be caused by anything from the ruins of the lost city of Atlantis to a secret Nazi base. I think, ideally, it’s both.
14. The Badlands Guardian
Way out in the middle of the so-called Badlands of Alberta, Canada, there rests a single Native American who patiently watches over all the lands around him. Or at least that’s sure what it looks like from space. This massive formation is in fact natural, though it’s almost hard to believe that when you can clearly see in the images of the Badlands Guardian a neck, a chin, a mouth with lips, a nose, an eye, a forehead, and even what looks to be a ceremonial headdress.
13. Chinese Desert Patterns
When these strange, massive patches of straight white lines arranged at crazy angles began appearing in the remote Gobi desert about a half decade back, the outside world was absolutely baffled as to what they meant. The satellite images showing the odd grids led to speculation of military test sites, space exploration, or even some sort of extraterrestrial involvement. (Which was a silly thing to think.) As it turns out, the satellite photos probably revealed unique terrestrial structures the Chinese military/government created for the purposes of calibrating satellites themselves. The patterns are likely targets that Chinese satellites can use to focus their cameras and/or adjust flight patterns, though we in the outside world still don’t know for sure.
12. Kondyor Massif, Russia
The Kondyor Massif, found in northwestern Russia, is an intriguing geological formation even before you add the layer of enigmatic imaging. This almost perfectly circular landmass looks like an ancient volcano, but is in fact a product of eons of slow erosion, not the result of an eruption. The massif has proved a rich source of platinum, gold, and other precious metals, which might help to explain why satellite imagery of the massif and the surrounding area tends to be blurry and all but unsuitable for purposes of route planning or close observation.
11. Saturn’s Odd Moon Pan
Though we tend to be a pretty self-centered species, not all of the satellites out there in space are pointed back at earth, ya know? Many are out there hurtling around in the solar system (a few are even beyond it, now) looking at the stuff. One such celestial adventurer is the Cassini space probe, which recently snapped some (relatively) up close images of one of Saturn’s moons, Pan. The images reveal the moon to be little like our own spherical orbiter; Pan appears to have a massive belt-like band protruding from its equator, looking quite unlike any other body thus far discovered out there in space.
10. Kangtega, Nepal – The Snow Saddle
Kantega is a lofty mountain located in the Himalaya Mountains of Nepal. At more than 22,250 feet in elevation, it is one of the tallest mountains on earth (though many nearby peaks tower above it). Yet Kantega, also known as the Snow Saddle, is blacked out of Google Earth’s satellite images, and the reasons for its censorship are unknown. Maybe it’s an evil super villain’s secret lair, or maybe it’s an error in the mapping software. Either way, you’ll have to climb this remote peak yourself to find out. Or use a plane.
9. The Atacama Glyphs
Spread around various parts of the vast, intensely arid Atacama Desert in Chile can be found massive glyphs, or artwork created by carving into the rocky ground of the desert floor. The largest of these glyphs is the Atacama Giant, which measures nearly 300 feet long. (That’s a football field, FYI.) While this and the other desert glyphs were almost surely created nearly a thousand years ago by people native to the region, there’s also speculation that the were created by aliens. (But they weren’t.)
8. Sandy Island, the Undiscovered Island
For more than 230 years, Sandy Island lurked off the western coast of Australia, a narrow strip of uninhabited land that had first been “spotted” by Captain James Cook. The island’s existence was reconfirmed several times during the course of the 19th Century, but in the 20th Century people began to wonder if this little place actually existed. Theories commenced saying Sandy Island might have been any number of other landmasses improperly charted by earlier mariners or even a temporary floating patch of pumice produced by undersea volcanic eruptions. Finally, in 2012, a surveyor ship passed through the proximity of the supposed island and officially undiscovered it. Before that voyage of undiscovery, Sandy Island had been on many maps and had even been labeled on satellite images, despite not existing.
7. Scientology’s “Sign Post” at Tremintina Base
If you know a bit about the pseudo-religion-cum-cult called Scientology, you know it’s batshit crazy. You also probably know it has a lot to do with extraterrestrials who, one day, are slated to come back to earth to retrieve those who have paid enough into the “church” to have gone clear. Or some such madness, it’s hardly worth trying to understand the inner workings of a machine built by madmen; the point here is that, when seen from an aerial view, the Scientology compound near Mesa Huerfanita, New Mexico reveals some very odd, very large iconography carved out on the ground. These bizarre circle and diamond symbols supposedly mark a “return point” for Scientologists who come back from distant reaches of the universe sometime int he future, though the organization refuses to actually explain the symbols.
6. Underwater Streaks in the Caspian Sea
Alright, scientists actually figured this one out, but for a while it was unexplained and deeply mysterious. In 2016, a satellite captured images of thousands of undersea liens crisscrossing the coastal waters of the Caspian Sea. At first, they had no idea what could have caused such markings, which were both numerous and enormous, clearly visible by a satellite orbiting hundreds of miles above the earth’s surface. Investigations later revealed that they were vast scratches etched into the seabed caused by the confluence of thick ice and high winds. The winds would move the ice along, and it would score the shallow sea floor as it moved. So no more mystery, but still pretty cool looking.
5. The Nevada Desert Triangle
In the remote desert of Nevada there is a massive triangle pattern laid out on the ground inside which are ringed five concentric circles. The pattern immediately calls to mind thoughts of the Illuminati, what with its similarity to the eye in the pyramid motif. The actual provenance of the Nevada Desert Triangle might be the restricted military site known officially as Groom Lake and informally as Area 51, with the pattern actually comprising a bombing target for air force aircraft to use in honing their offensive prowess.
4. HAARP Site, Washington-Oregon Border
The United States Military has officially shut down its HAARP program, a research initiative that was supposedly devoted to studying the transmission of signals through the earth’s ionosphere, but that many people think was an attempt to weaponize the weather. Regardless, though the program has ended, you still cannot see the area where the hardware involved was set up on the border between Oregon and Washington. A huge stretch of land is blurred out of all satellite images.
3. Desert “Wheels” from Jordan
From the right vantage point, meaning an airplane or from space, you can spot strange manmade structures sitting a number of barren swathes of Middle Eastern desert. Many of these constructs consist of walls built in a circular pattern, often with what appear to be spokes spread out within their outline. The so-called “Wheels” are also known as the “Works of Old Men.” Though many can be dated back some 8,500 years, the reasons behind their construction will probably never be known.
2. The Black Knight Satellite
While it’s unlikely that any of the tales the more conspiracy-minded among us tell are correct, it’s also that the so-called Black Knight Satellite has yet to be properly identified. Apparently, there is a mysterious object orbiting our planet that has appeared in several satellite photos over the past few decades and that has come to be known as the Black Knight. Some people claim it has been in orbit for many thousands of years; some feel it’s likely a secret military device operated by America, Russia, or some other nation. Most likely the Black Knight is just a series of images that have been misinterpreted coincidentally, but still the mystery persists.
1. All of Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip
If you zoom in past a certain point, you will find the entire nation of Israel and the Palestinian Territories blurred by pixillation. The reason for this can actually be explained quite clearly: it’s due to the Kyl-Bingaman Amendment to a 1997 defense spending bill that prohibited public display of high resolution images of this often conflicted corner of the world. So while we know why we’re not seeing any of Israel, the Gaza Strip, or the West Bank clearly, we’re left to wonder what we’re not seeing well into the coming years. No end to this restriction is forthcoming.
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