China: Buildings captured in a mysterious set of satellite images in the Chinese desert are probably just factories or commercial warehouses, not secret military facilities, experts say.
The images created a stir when an ex-CIA analyst told Wired.com that he had found mysterious structures in the desert around Kashgar, a city in China”s remote Western desert that is part of the Xinjiang province. The site includes several large buildings, including a large U-shaped building. Some of the buildings at the site are nearly 350 feet (106 meters) long. In the wake of China”s recent anti-satellite tests, it”s not surprising that speculation exploded.
But the area is probably part of an initiative to develop the region into a major manufacturing or economic centre, not a secret military base, said Stefan Geens, a technologist and geospatial blogger who has spent months in that area of China documenting its development.
“Kashgar was chosen as a special economic zone,” Geens said. “That means Shenzen-style development,” he said, referring to the major industrial city in China that builds much of the world”s products.
In general, more and more amateurs have taken to Google Earth to uncover mysterious structures, said Susan Wolfinbarger, an image analyst for the Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights Project of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Earlier this year, a physicist used satellite imagery to identify geological mining activity in the desert in China. Other researchers have used such images to reveal the mysteries of Angkor Wat and even track the course of Guantanamo Bay over time, Wolfinbarger said.
To understand what”s going on in an image, analysts look for rail, road or power lines, look at the footprint of the building, and they may even analyze the shadows cast by the buildings to infer their height, said Stuart Hamilton, the GIS program director at the Center for Geospatial Analysis at the College of William and Mary.
But figuring out what people are using those buildings for is trickier than just understanding the infrastructure.
“This is really a classic example of you have two things going on. You can see quite clearly what the land cover is, but land use is a much more difficult problem,” Hamilton said.
Source: Live Science