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.
Sprawling swastika (1)
Weird Wheels (3)
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 Photographic Archive for Archaeology in the Middle East (APAAME) have been investigating wheel structures (also called “works of the old men”) with satellite imagery available through Google Earth. The wheels vary in their design, with some showing spokes that radiate from the center, others with just one or two bars rather than spokes and still others not circular at all and instead shaped like squares, rectangles or triangles, the researchers have found.
Bull’s eye (4)
Mysterious pyramid? (5)
This image from Google Earth shows an anomaly that some believe could be an unexcavated pyramid. Dozens of anomalies in Egypt have been detected using Google Earth in the past five years; however, there is a debate as to whether they represent natural features or artificial structures. More excavations are needed, but the security and economic situation in Egypt has limited the number and size of excavations.
Egyptian pyramids? (6)
Phantom Island (7)
Puzzling Pentagram (8)
Abandoned launch sites (9)
(1) Credit: Image copyright DigitalGlobe, courtesy Google Earth
(2) Credit: Google Earth
(3) Credit: Image courtesy Google Earth
(4) Credit: Image courtesy Google Earth
(5) Credit: Google Earth via Google Earth Anomalies
(6) Credit: Google Earth via Google Earth Anomalies
(7) Credit: via Google Earth
(8) Credit: Google Maps
(9) Credit: Google Earth
(10) Credit: Google Earth