Readers crack Google Earth photo challenge
Too easy, eh? Hmmm...
Thanks to all those readers who took the time to write in about our mystery Google Earth location  and, specifically, the five selected features which we asked you to identify:
Well, it proved a little too easy for our US cousins, many of whom had first-hand knowledge of the place in question. Not everyone, though, found it quite so unchallenging.
Here are a couple of initial thoughts on the matter:
These photos look very much like an aerial view of a particle accelerator facility.
A is a linear accelerator, B is the target area of a (different) accelerator, C is a syncrotron ring. Not sure about D and E -- particle sources perhaps? Or an old reactor facility?
I'm not sure which accelerator this is -- not Fermilab, not Stanford. Too busy to check others in Google Earth. :-)
I'd guess it's some sort of automotive testing facility, perhaps one of those high-end driving schools, complete with drag strips, loops, and skid pads. Am I even close? Do I win lots of untraceable cash? Or maybe a candy bar? In any event, please post the answer soon; I'll listen for the sound of millions of palms slapping millions of foreheads as millions of geeks have their noses rubbed in their own fallibility.
These are clearly Mayan sky drawings used as landing strips by alien spacecraft.
A) Is the fountain pen of God. Every technically literate civilisation needs pens. Even aliens. B) Is the hand of God. The aliens have 4 long fingers and a shorter thumb. Actually, that is their gloves - to hide the claws on their lizard-like stumpy limbs. C) Is a pre-technological map of the moon - the other side, which they couldn't possibly have known about. D) Must have been a pitch for the Mayan Ball Game before it got sold off by the local council. E) Is the lock-up for the alien spacecraft. The rent is paid up until December 23rd 2012 - which is all the Mayan's could handle, seeing as that is when their calendar ends.
Richard "von Daniken"
Very amusing, but absolutely no cigar. Here, then, is most of the truth, as outlined by Paul Williams. Good work by all of you who also came up trumps:
I spotted this in passing a while back and was wondering what it was. A bit of Googling suggests that it's Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Station [.kmz here ], which has been used for testing launch and landing systems for use aboard aircraft carriers. It's also a former airship base. The five mystery bits:
A - halfway along the main runway, this is probably arresting gear, for bringing an aircraft to a halt. At the end of the runway are steam catapults for launching them.
B - these are also steam catapults, used for launching weights rather than aircraft, to test catapult improvements.
C - this is a parachute jump circle, used to practice parachute landings.
D - what happened here - this was the location of the Hindenburg disaster, which is what the base is most famous for.
E - hangar #1, a former airship hangar. Once held the record for being the largest single room in the world.
This site contains most of these details: http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/facility/lakehurst.htm
On the other hand, does B actually show rocket sled tracks? Many of you thought so...
A Arrestor test facility B Rocket sled tracks C Parachute drop site D Hindenburg crash site marker E Hanger number 1
It took me around 2 minutes to identify the site as Lakehurst, as I have driven past Cardington [UK former airship field - .kmz here ] on many occasions and recognised the similarity to the Hanger (site E). This is where the good news ends as the next frustrating 40 minutes failed to turn up any clues to the rest of the features. When I suggested to my son that he have a go, I have to shamefully admit that all the other sites were identified within 5 minutes. I blame 25 years exposure to London Pride for dulling the senses so what's your excuse for the Vulture Central crew taking half an hour to identify features one solitary teenager took 5 minutes to do?
Regards, Paul Stephenson
Well, we spent most of our time trying to exactly pinpoint the Hindenburg memorial  (it's in image D somewhere, we're sure, although it is very, very small). Interestingly, the airship angle threw some of you, who, having correctly identified the hangar, then assumed C was where you'd tether your dirigible - the tethering mast being in the middle of the circle.
Of course, once you'd identified the location, the rest was just a matter of pulling the necessary info from the internet. Imagine, though, you were examining the photos for the first time and had no prior knowledge of the technology and no online resources to help you out. We wonder how many of us could have, in all honesty, had the faintest idea what B was, or what might have been going on in E?
Oh yes, and what about the WMD spotted by Paul Van Den Steene?
Too easy, many of you reckoned. Mike Henderson explains:
I'd guess he's found a dummy aircraft used for training airport fire rescue staff. They make an 'aeroplane' out of heavy steel so it can be set on fire with lashings of lovely jet fuel time and time again without melting. Then the fire-fighters can practice putting it out over and over until they're *really* good at it. I hope :-)
Yes indeed. For the record, this one is at Luton Airport (.kmz here ). We're obliged to the airport's press office for confirming our suspicions, as follows:
You are correct, it is a fire training rig which is a mock up of a Boeing 767 aircraft fuselage. As you can imagine the fire and rescue services at the airport are highly trained and regularly keep their training current by dealing with various fire and rescue scenarios on the training rig.
Thank-you for your interest
Airfield Envionment Manager
London Luton Airport Operations Ltd.
Nice one. Keep those Google Earth recommendations coming in - anything weird and wonderful always welcome. ®
Google Earth is now available for Mac OS X (10.4). Download it right here . Linux users just talk among yourselves for the next couple of years. (Or not, try this here  courtesy of Neil Greenwood and others.)