Mysterious White Lines in China Desert

White lines in Gobi desert, northwestern China. Google Maps

Just what are those lines? And what are they doing in the middle of nowhere, out in the Gobi desert of northwestern China?

If you’re into crop circles, Area 51 or UFOs, you’ll love these. They were spotted on Google Maps, and over the last few days they’ve taken on something of a viral quality. The array in the image included here is about a mile long and 3,000 feet across (there are several in the area), and it’s set off speculation from sources across the web:

Gizmodo: “Perhaps it’s some kind of targeting or calibrating grid for Chinese spy satellites? Maybe it’s a QR code for aliens? Nobody really knows.”

New Scientist: “Conspiracy theorists pounced immediately. Were these some sort of alien markings or the remains of a lost civilisation?”

The Mirror: “One photograph, which depicts 16 perfect squares spaced out in a block, shows what appear to be burnt-out trucks, supporting the claim that the sites are targets.”

You can tell that people are having a bit of fun with this. We asked Charles Vick of, which watches military and space issues, what he thought, and he said, “This is indeed a mystery that requires a much closer examination up close but my best guess is a calibration ground facility for imaging and radar imaging systems in earth orbit.”

Benjamin Radford, a famous skeptic (he traced the legend of the chupacabra back to one woman in Puerto Rico in the 1990s) is much in the same camp. At Discovery News he writes, “At this point no one really knows for sure, but the most likely explanation is that it’s a military target practice range.

His parting shot: “Of course this explanation won’t sit well with the conspiracy-minded crowd; it’s much more fun to think it’s a Chinese equivalent of Area 51 than a boring old target range.”