Guess the image

An interesting find on Google Earth

Answer  here

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May 5, 2011 5:10 am

It looks like a U-2 being shadowed by itself

May 5, 2011 5:11 am

A pic of a U-2 taking off and it’s shadow on the ground.

Mike Davis
May 5, 2011 5:15 am

Two gliders flying over a runway! The photo was taken from one of the gliders!

May 5, 2011 5:17 am

Plug the above in
I count 7 E-3 aircraft taking off. I only count six shadows. Perhaps a little photo editing?

May 5, 2011 5:39 am

It’s always fun to see what you can find on Google – the in-the-air shot here is *real* nice! But things that would have been highly classified even 30 years ago are right out in the open – for example, look up Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, and you can see the US B1-B fleet all lined up on the end of the runway.

John Marshall
May 5, 2011 5:43 am

If this is a U2 then it must be classified. I can hear the NSA knocking Anthony!

John Silver
May 5, 2011 5:45 am

Love the Kelly Johnson planes: P38, U2, SR71.

May 5, 2011 5:46 am

I picked it as a U2 but couldn’t quite understand the double image until looking at the answer image. I saw one of these hanging from the roof of the display hangar at Duxford air museum just out of London. This building encompasses a B-52 Strato-Fortress as well as an SR-71 Blackbird. You just have to marvel at what man can achieve with clear thinking, good science, and a strong purpose.
How did we get it so wrong with Climate Science? 🙂

JB Williamson
May 5, 2011 5:47 am

Reminds me of the Avro Lancaster that was spotted on google some time ago.
One of many links here:
The maps have been updated so its no longer there, which is a shame.

May 5, 2011 5:52 am

Looks like a U2, but not sure where.

Joe Di S
May 5, 2011 5:54 am

Wow! Is that a U-2?

May 5, 2011 5:56 am

How about this
type/copy-paste into Google Maps and slide up to one bar on the zoom
Came across it by accident planning a trip

May 5, 2011 6:04 am

That’s a U2 and its shadow flying along what appears to be a large white track, possibly a runway, although, since the image is from Google, the nearness of the plane to the shadow may be a false perspective, since the suns rays are almost parallel, and the sun is up and to the right in the photo.

May 5, 2011 6:11 am

Too bad there are not photos of the sr71 that have been decommissioned.

Pamela Gray
May 5, 2011 6:15 am

Funny thing about Google Earth. It now opens up the entire world for selection and examination of targets without actually needing to be on the ground. The irony is this: It depicts the unintended consequences of a developed country capable of putting satelites into orbit in a single photo.

May 5, 2011 6:22 am

All of the camouflage paint and stealth technology in the world will not hide the shadow of a low-altitude aircraft flying on a bright and sunny day.

May 5, 2011 6:24 am

The shadow plane is in the sky, bouncing off the parked plane on the ground?
Once looking out of a plane’s window somewhere over the Atlantic, saw a perfect circle rainbow below and at an angle from the plane. Is this similar effect, bouncing off water in the air/ice on the ground, somehow?

May 5, 2011 6:28 am

ER-2 flying above Moffet Field

May 5, 2011 6:36 am

@Lonnie re: 7 E-3s taking off
An interesting insight into how these satellite pictures are assembled. There aren’t seven planes taking off. Just one, or maybe two, caught seven times. By the seventh shot the plane has enough altitude that its shadow falls out of the frame.

Amino Acids in Meteorites
May 5, 2011 6:38 am

I knew it was a U-2 but I thought it was a trick question. Is it because it seems so odd that U-2’s are still being used when satellite can do the job? It does seem odd to see a U-2 taking off in this century.

David Y
May 5, 2011 6:39 am

Beale AFB
Satellite view on Google maps used to show 2-3 U-2’s w their shadows.

Hector Pascal
May 5, 2011 6:47 am

Duxford is at Duxford, just south of Cambridge. Home of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. A brilliant air museum, with many airworthy aircraft. There is a dedicated USAAF hall to commemorate the sacrifice of our cousins who helped to keep the world a free place.

Stephen Wilde
May 5, 2011 6:48 am

The recent US team on its way to confront Bin Laden ?

David Y
May 5, 2011 6:48 am

Or should I say TR-1’s now…For those outside California, Beale is not far from Chico–native home of QB Aaron Rodgers, our own esteemed AnthonyWatts, Sierra Nevada Brewery, CSU-Chico (Chico State), and described by my 6-yo son as ‘the best place on Earth’. And Beale used to host SR-71’s; now much UAV activity, apparently. I recommend visits to Chico and Beale!

May 5, 2011 6:54 am

A plane taking off and its shadow

Dick of Utah
May 5, 2011 6:58 am

jack morrow says:
“Too bad there are not photos of the sr71 that have been decommissioned.”
There are lots of pics of that airplane.,or.r_gc.r_pw.&wrapid=tljp1304602905125036&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&biw=1054&bih=428
You can see the real thing up close in a few air museums and take your own pictures. I saw the one at Pima A.M. near Tucson. I bought a tee shirt with a picture of the SR-71 BB on it.

May 5, 2011 7:04 am

My, how the world has changed.
In the 70′s I was the science ops engineer for Landsat 4 and the first Thematic Mapper photos after launch were confiscated by one of the alphabet agencies because they showed aircraft on the Detroit airport runway. Much less sensitive than these, but the fear was that the resolution would be good enough to show details of “other” secret installations. That all became moot when the French launched their SPOT spacecraft with even better resolution than Landsat.

May 5, 2011 7:04 am

Look like a U2 to me….

Greg Goodknight
May 5, 2011 7:13 am

I guessed correctly, but then, I’m a local who sometimes flies over Beale AFB. Let me guess, no prize?
Civilian pilots can take FAA High Altitude Physiology Training at the Beale facility; a side benefit when I took the class was spending lunchtime watching a U2 practicing in the traffic pattern, a fascinating plane. The James “Top Gear” May U2 flight in that amazing BBC video was also from Beale.

May 5, 2011 7:18 am

@Lonnie E. Schubert.
Sorry we borrowed it for a while. Google Earth “Brisbane Airport” and take the view back to 4/16/2007. Look at the south end of the runway.

May 5, 2011 7:24 am

@John Silver, did you forget the F-104? I think that it was also a Lockheed Skunk Works bird.

May 5, 2011 7:30 am

Google Earth : 38.226681° -112.299044°
No shadow… apparently a missile on a test range going somewhere. And with no chase planes.

May 5, 2011 7:31 am

Is it a B-36?

May 5, 2011 7:33 am

It’s the alien craft from Roswell, taking off from Area 51.

May 5, 2011 7:35 am

Ha! I recognized it right away. It’s Beale AFB. When Google Earth was freshly launched, I lived in Sutter County and came across that plane right away, purely inadvertently.

Lonnie E. Schubertl
May 5, 2011 7:42 am

Mike (noastronomer)
Are you sure? Can you share a reference?

Paul Hull
May 5, 2011 7:47 am

The SR-71 on static display is nice as well. Thanks, Anthony.

Greg Goodknight
May 5, 2011 7:49 am

‘Amino’ writes “…it seems so odd that U-2′s are still being used when satellite can do the job?”
It takes awhile to move a satellite into an orbit that will cover a particular area, and then it will only be over the target for a small fraction of the day.

May 5, 2011 7:51 am

U-2 taking off. The F-104? Beautiful aircraft.But it was(is) called the widow maker for a reason. 900 kts at 20′ off the deck. You are dead before your brain can register it.And many a Luftwaffe pilot died in Canadian 104’s due to the fact,in the German version,you ejected out the bottom,so they would flip the bird onto her back to get out.Unfortunately,they punched out straight into the ground.

May 5, 2011 7:59 am

..May have mentioned this before…
I was a little kid, and it was around ’58 or ’59 and I was in our backyard, about 3/4 of a mile from the Lockheed airport, where my mother worked as a technical librarian.
Heard this rumbling that became louder, and louder, and when I looked in the direction it was coming from, the airport, I saw this black thing that looked like a rocket, but with funny long and skinny wings, heading straight up. Not quickly at all, but slow and steady, and making a lot of noise in the process.
It slowly disappeared into the sky, and I never saw one again.
When mom got home I asked her what it was, and all she said was “I don’t know”, with a faint hint of a smile. It wasn’t until years later I realized it was a U-2.

May 5, 2011 8:01 am

Long live Kelly Johnson!

Jeff Carlson
May 5, 2011 8:04 am

we still fly U-2’s … interesting …

May 5, 2011 8:06 am

NASA/Ames flew a U-2 (or U-2 derivative) during the mid-1970’s while I was stationed at Moffett Field. I remember listening to a U-2 clearance: “ATC clears you to at or above fight level six-zero-zero three miles south of the Oakland VORTAC.” Flight level 600 is the upper limit of the US jet route system (about 60,000 feet). The Oakland VORTAC is located at the Oakland airport. NASA/Ames, also located at Moffett Field, is about five miles south of Oakland. When they take off from Moffett (heading north), the U-2s point their nose straight up and climb like a rocket.

May 5, 2011 8:12 am

I had the pleasure of witnessing a high speed “low” altitude (relatively speaking!) fly over of an SR71. The next day I got to touch it! At the age of 21 the thrill was almost like touching a … never mind. Okay, so I’m a geek. I also have gotten to see a few U2’s up an personal! BTW that fly over was so absolutely incredible. If my CO hadn’t told us what to look for, we would probably not have understood what we were witnessing.

May 5, 2011 8:15 am

Too easy.

May 5, 2011 8:22 am

Dick of Utah
I meant that there are none flying and I miss them and I bet so does our intelligence service folks. I was flying East at 41,000 feet one night and something at an altitude much higher than that, with a blinking strobe light , flew over me from North to South. I suspected a sr because of it’s speed.

May 5, 2011 8:29 am

I guessed it right but couldn’t work out why there were 2 of them, not the kind of plane that flies around in pairs. The shadow and plane look alike.

David Chappell
May 5, 2011 8:39 am

@ Hector Pascal
The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight is not based at Duxford but RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire.
Way back when I had the chance of sitting in a U2 at Akrotiri in Cyprus. Fascinating (and noisy) aeroplane and the odd thing that stays in my mind was that the go faster levers had micrometer adjustment so critical was the power setting at height. Curiously, the USAF detachment commander was Col Gary Powers – but not that one…

May 5, 2011 8:55 am

“All of the camouflage paint and stealth technology in the world will not hide the shadow of a low-altitude aircraft flying on a bright and sunny day.”
true. however, but down in the weeds you don’t need stealth. you might be detectable, but keep that burner lit and you’re un interceptable.

May 5, 2011 8:58 am

Erm… guess what plane it is or somth else?
With the first glance you can see a plane and it’s shadow.
Seriously though, don’t get the point of this post.

D. King
May 5, 2011 9:22 am

I had the honor of working on the U2 sensor systems (ASARS-2) for 25 years.

May 5, 2011 9:44 am

@Jim Masterson – not quite ‘straight up’, their thrust-to-weight ratio isn’t that good, but they can pull a pretty steep AoA without standing on their tail.
Best to get up and over the SFO class B as quickly as you can.

May 5, 2011 9:46 am

the point: it’s cool! I love watching the skies, and spotted something fun a couple weeks ago. I’m in East Texas, heard an unusual jet engine whine (unlike modern commercial craft) so I looked up, and saw the silhouette of an F-100 SuperSabre! My first thought was “my god, who’s still got one of those in flying condition??”
Did some searching and found out that the Collings Foundation, out of Houston, has just recently restored one of these and put it on tour – this was almost certainly the one I saw, since it looks like there are only 2 flying F-100’s left in the world today.

May 5, 2011 9:49 am

Five years ago the Register had a similar pic of one of the Eurostar high speed trains arriving at Waterloo station in London from Google Earth.
Owing to the mosaicing of the sat images and the train being split across two of them, the results were ripe for the Registers unique brand of reporting –

Adam Gallon
May 5, 2011 9:58 am

“Duxford is at Duxford, just south of Cambridge. Home of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight”
Wrong. The BBMF is based at Conningsby, Lincolnshire.
I remember, many years ago, driving up the A1 at almost sunset. As I approached the junction with the A14, I saw the silhouette of a plane, huge wingspan, so long I thought it was a jet airliner. As it turned, I saw it was a U2/TR1. Only one I’ve ever seen live, I don’t think we’ve even got one in a museum in the UK.

Kent Draper
May 5, 2011 10:06 am

There is a once classified place on Okinawa called OL8. The SR71’s were nicknamed the “Habu” for a snake there. We used to watch them taxi to the end of the runway and then do a quick vertical launch and be gone 🙂
When I was at Beale, they would sometimes do flyovers that almost broke windows. I believe they have 7 stages of afterburners. Wonderful aircraft, faster than the fastest. Anytime some other aircraft would claim a record, they would send up an SR and not only beat that record but add a bunch to it. I never found out just how fast they could actually fly. Fun times 🙂

Mike M
May 5, 2011 10:28 am

I searched on “U-2” with an image size 192 x 162 and came up with this. So even though it does seem to fit the profile of a U-2 from above and it’s shadow on the ground it’s actually just a duck.

May 5, 2011 10:50 am

Well how about a giant skeleton hundreds of yards long
[ ]
REPLY: seriously? This is just as much junk as the face on Mars that only exists under certain lighting conditions. – Anthony

Larry Sheldon
May 5, 2011 11:04 am

Classified? Really?
In the early 1960’s I was learning to fly at the Van Nuys airport (at the time the busiest airport in the world) — it was also and ANG base, so you be working with KC97’s and I forget what all from the Guard.
Add to all that all kinds of light aircraft traffic, Lear jets, and a U2 in and out of the Lockheed facility there.
In my first solo I was “cleared to land behind the U2, caution the Lear jet on base behind you” or something like that.
I don’t remember the numbers anymore and I’m too lazy to look them up, but the U2, being a jet engine with sail plane wings attached (and only a single double-wheel landing gear amidships) landed at something like 80 knots, my Cherokee landed at something like 100 knots, and the Lear something like 200.
I said “roger, how about I make a left 360 and follow the Lear?”

dave ward
May 5, 2011 11:06 am

@ jasmr & Hector Pascal – you might be interested in this video of the B52 landing at Duxford.

May 5, 2011 11:15 am

I grew up in Yuba City near Beale AFB and remember when the SR-71 started flying. We kids called it the Bat Plane. Loved the sonic booms too. I don’t remember the locals complaining, guess we all felt like we were in on some great secret. Doesn’t look at all like the SR-71 of my memory, so I’m placing my bet on a different plane and its shadow.

Larry Sheldon
May 5, 2011 11:41 am

While the U2 flew like a sail plane for landing it flew more like an Atlas on take off–once stuff stopped falling off of it on the runway. Seems like its take-off clearance was something like “Coldstream [I think that was its callsign] cleared for take off, contact Los Angeles Center on 14[something]point[something] now”. (The normal sequence would be for most IFR aircraft would be “Cleared for take off”, followed by “contact Burbank Departure control on ….” and maybe some more frequency changes from Departure, then a change to Los Angeles Center.)

May 5, 2011 12:12 pm

Yes it be Mr “big boned” Gore and his pansy “business” partner The Hip Smurfey Blue Hip Smurf Director flying around acting green way up in the blue, all fancy, playing hostile invasion force “aptly” named Baron von Stuka (aka th einside joke diving for pleasure).

May 5, 2011 12:51 pm

I might be being awkward but my impression is that it is two different aircraft. A U-2 to the lower right and one of the extended wing B-57s to the upper left. If I am correct then the fact that the B-57 (aka Canberra) is still flying is more remarkable than the later U-2.

May 5, 2011 1:18 pm

I love snooping around, especially when you find stuff like this. The interesting thing about Google maps / earth is that you can get different images as you zoom in/out. Tinker AFB with an AWACS taking off – now you see it, now you don’t.,-97.381707&spn=0.004408,0.006899&t=h&z=1
(make sure you switch to the satellite view. And it shows the AWACS over and over again as the series of photographs was taken)
And sometimes, if the camera is at an oblique angle, you can get some remarkable images such as,-97.3788&spn=0.001558,0.001725&t=h&z=19 which shows a beautiful side-shot of a group of B-1’s sittin’ in the sunshine.

May 5, 2011 1:21 pm
May 5, 2011 1:56 pm

My guess it is a plane flying over the brown area and its shadow is on the gray area. Type of plane? Maybe a glider.

REPLY: Try clicking on the link
– Anthony

May 5, 2011 2:27 pm

I used to watch them taking off. As noted by others, like a rocket.

John Silver
May 5, 2011 3:49 pm

RayG says:
May 5, 2011 at 7:24 am
@John Silver, did you forget the F-104? I think that it was also a Lockheed Skunk Works bird.
No, I just don’t want to think about it. I rather think about the unsung hero; the P-38.

May 5, 2011 5:27 pm

There’s another U2 in flight over Kuwait if you look around in the NE, I can’t remember exactly where though.

May 5, 2011 5:32 pm

Come to think of it, but only nazi’s called their flying contraption U anything and only one present day group self proclaimed greenie (communist) hippie’s called themselves you too.

May 5, 2011 5:55 pm

Knowing, Anthony’s wife’s from around Marysville, and knowing it was a U2, and that they are flown @ Beale, I guessed, successfully, the U2 @ Beale answer.

May 5, 2011 6:23 pm

Also, I’m experimenting, with expanding the usage, of commas, for art’s sake. I’m developing an ENTIRE NEW BRANCH of MATHEMATICS derived from regular college statistics that of course no one else can understand, and I expect you’ll all accept my calculations on comma usage, and agree, we all have to stop using fire.
Because of course, excessive commas, while in the electronic realm, represent energy NOT used typically, those on paper, which my M.G.C.C. (M.a.g.i.c. M.o.d.e.l) likens unto clouds because they’re both white, and the trees paper comes from make ok proxies if you hold the paper up to a chunk of rock candy and look at it under sunlight.
I use comma math in commatology a lot. I even teach it to other people and guess what?
It’s, worse, than, we, thought, even, though, the, math, isn’t, real.
You see the ends of those commas, pointing D.O.W.N?
Ya know why THAT is? Because commatology and climatology have BOTH INDEPENDENTLY CALCULATED that the SAME POWERS makin them PHOTONS turn around and go DOWN, in the Back Radiation,
is makin them comma ends turn downwards.
Ya see how that works? That thayur’s called sients.
Yessir and boy howdy ya’ll all ought to thank us CommaClimaKarmaTologists fer our discoverin that at SOME point – we cain’t rillie say WHUR: them gravaties is ‘a RUVERsIN: and a makin them energies, and them comma tips, turn RIT arount and go DOWN’rdz, twardz thu GRAYouND!
That’s cause ya’ll ain’t COMMATOLOGISTS!
Anyway back to muh ruserch.

May 5, 2011 6:51 pm

AleaJactaEst says:
May 5, 2011 at 5:56 am

It’s not black so you’ve nothing to worry about.

May 5, 2011 7:38 pm

No matter how good the sensors get, if they are closer to the subject you get better readings!!! You also don’t have to wait for the satellite to get there!!!

Douglas DC
May 5, 2011 8:04 pm

Had the occasion to the see a TR-2 and an SR-71 flyby at two separate airshows.
Yes the TR in full burner did climb like an Atlas. The SR-71 like nothing else before or since…
Kelly Johnson was a national treasure.
My wife when she was staying in Marysville with a friend of the family, she kept
seeing these”black birds” going in and out of Beale. “What are they called?” she asked,
her friend smiled and said:”Blackbird’…

May 5, 2011 8:23 pm

Oh, good, I got it right. It was a U-2.
For those discussing the landing characteristics of the U-2 I offer this video. Warning, lyrics in the accompanying song are very much NSFW, albeit quite appropriate.

Joshua Corning
May 5, 2011 10:13 pm

We still use the U-2?
I always thought the Blackbrid had cooler lines….but maybe the U-2 is like a 1911 or a BIC lighter….a classic that is impossible to improve on.

May 5, 2011 10:15 pm

Has anyone seen the huge plastic island in the Pacific on Google earth?

May 6, 2011 3:46 am

I was once an aircraft engineer and a flight engineer and Lockheed stuff was special in the way that it was made. Some thirty or forty years ago I was in the air and heard a may day from a U2 , his engine had flamed out near the south pole and was expecting to glide to Tasmania, that is a long way to glide. Not long after he called again and said that he could make it to the Australian mainland and land at his normal destination in Gippsland Victoria. That is a ship load far to go in a glide. Magic.

May 6, 2011 5:58 am

It’s a glider with an 8am shadow over an E-W runway in Iowa circa April 1st.

May 6, 2011 9:23 am

It is a TR1 as the U2 was retired many years ago, a beautiful site anyway. I am going to click on the anwser now.

George E. Smith
May 6, 2011 10:54 am

Doesn’t look like a U2 to me. I would venture an opinion, that a U2 has a longer wing span ratio than is in that picture.
Maybe I’ll look anyway.

George E. Smith
May 6, 2011 10:56 am

So I was right, it is just a google earth photoshopped picture of a U2 taking off, so why is the plane not over the runway, but its shadow is ?

May 6, 2011 12:05 pm

I hate to even contemplate how many thousands of feet of film I’ve looked at taken by a U-2. Never made it to Beale, though – three tries, three trips to Offutt AFB in Omaha, NE. I was at RAF Alconbury when we had the RF-4s and the TR-1s using the same runway. Used to love to see the TR-1s take off. One of the fun things about a TR-1 (U-2, also) is that they had small wheels that were inserted into a socket on the outside edge of the wings. These would fall off during take-off.
Interesting incident: we had a TR-1 aircraft up in a training/familiarization flight. The aircraft flamed out, and the pilot (a relative newbie to the aircraft) declared an in-flight emergency – normal for most jet aircraft. For the TR-1, not so good an idea. It took him three hours to get down. Needless to say, he probably got a good $$$-chewing from his commander, the Base commander, and the fire department.
One of the things U-2s and TR-1s were used for when I was in England was to fly missions to monitor the drift of radioactive fall-out from Chernobyl. Just for grins, the U-2 was/is considered a “strategic” asset, the TR-1 a “tactical” asset. Different imaging systems, different tasking, but basically the same airframe.

May 8, 2011 4:51 am

JEM says:
May 5, 2011 at 9:44 am
Best to get up and over the SFO class B as quickly as you can.
Yes, but back then it was a TCA.

Keith Sketchley
May 8, 2011 6:33 pm

The U-2 may still be a viable high-altitude sensing platform,
over peaceful territory for NASA, or for the military where it controls the skies (as over Afghanistan/Pakistan).
NASA operates many old airplanes for research work, in part as fitting sensors is expensive, in part as operational reliability is less critical for them than the military or commercial operators, in part because capital cost is low.
NASA has a DC-8, and had at least one Blackbird type spy-plane they used for high-speed research.

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