Weird Satellite Images

Some folks out there are eagle eyed and logical. Maybe they can help explain these pictures to me.

All four pictures I am going to show you are of the same building, and taken at different times. The first, is how the building looks on Bing Maps:


The building appears to be in the shape of a pyramid, and is casting a shadow that supports this. The Satellite must have been close to be directly above the building when the picture was taken, because the shadow suggests that the building is quite tall, but the rest of the image doesn’t. It’s a little odd, but I’d put it down to just an illusion based on the low resolution of the image.

At the bottom of the image is what looks like a parked vehicle. It is casting a shadow about the same length as the width of the vehicle, which gives us a rough idea that the building is probably as tall as the shadow is long.

Around the building are tire tracks. If we say the average space between wheels on a car is about 4 feet, then this would give an estimate of the height of the building at about 44 feet, based on the relative length of the shadow and a rough measurement that it’s about 11x the width of the tire tracks.

So, next, let’s take a look at an image of the same building, as viewed on Google maps:


Now it looks like the building clearly has a triangular shape with a flat roof, and not a pyramid at all. From the horizontal ‘striping’ across the face of the building it almost looks like it has floors, and a rough count gives 12 floors. Given that the average floor is probably about 10 feet, this would make the building about 120 feet tall. Not also the position of the shadow relative to the circular platform that the building is on. It’s far longer, which would suggest that the picture was taken when the sun is much lower but when you look at the vehicle parked near the bottom of the building, it’s shadow is approximately the same as that in the Bing-based image above. This suggests that the building might be much taller in the second image. But there’s no sign of any construction going on in the first image, suggesting it was complete at that point. Odd, huh?

But it gets odder. Take a look at the Terra Server Image of the same building:


Here we can see that it is clearly a vehicle parked near the building, and the separate angle gives us a clear indication that it is a triangular-prism shaped tall building. If we look at the vehicle, and assume it is 5 feet high, and it’s shadow is about half the width of the vehicle, we could measure the approximate height of the building. The building shadow is about 30x the car shadow, so the building height would be about 30x the car height. If the car is about 5 feet tall, then the building will be about 150 feet high.

Is it just bad calculations and rounding errors, or is the building getting taller?


And for the final image, this is the most recent one, taken by GeoEye and the full image is copyrighted, so I’m just using a small snippet:


This is very similar to the Google Maps image, but shows a much sharper image of the building. There is no shadow in this case, so we can guess the height by counting floors. My original estimate from the Google image had 12 floors, but here it might be 14, which would give the height as something close to my TerraServer-based estimate of about 150 feet.

What do you guys think?

By the way, this building, if you haven’t guessed it already, is in Area 51. I discovered it while poring over Google Maps when writing my series of books ‘The Fourth World’, ‘The Million Year Journey’ and ‘The Legend of the Locust’, where Area 51 is home to an international school for the best and brightest children in the world, and where they learn how to take mankind to a future among the stars. You can find the first book at, and it’s free for eBook readers…

2 thoughts on “Weird Satellite Images

  1. just looking for star gate stuff. Saw this pick.
    The building is obviously on a small hill (look at the tire tracks leading up to the vehicle.) the vehicle is on the side of the hill facing the sun and is not level, therefore has a shorter shadow than if it were on level ground. The building’s shadow is going down the hill making it longer than if the ground around the building were level.
    Sorry to burst any bubbles.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>