'See those damn aliens' at Area 51 via Google Maps

The truth is out there, but if you don't like crowds, you can search for it from your computer.

Leslie Katz Former Culture Editor
Leslie Katz led a team that explored the intersection of tech and culture, plus all manner of awe-inspiring science, from space to AI and archaeology. When she's not smithing words, she's probably playing online word games, tending to her garden or referring to herself in the third person.
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Leslie Katz
3 min read

Yes, but can Google Maps go underground? 

Google Maps screenshot by Leslie Katz/CNET

You're forgiven if you can't decide whether to buy tickets to Nevada for the planned raid on classified military base Area 51. One day the Sept. 20 Facebook event "to see those damn aliens" is removed from the social network, the next it's back up. Who can keep track, let alone make reliable travel plans? 

If you like to play things safe and search for aliens from your couch instead of the hot, sweaty desert, you can just visit Area 51 via Google Maps . LADbible provides the coordinates for the desert base around 150 miles from Las Vegas, which has become synonymous with alien conspiracies, especially involving alien spaceships and aliens themselves. 

"By typing these coordinates into Google Maps: 37.24804, -115.800155, or by following this link, you can view the base without breaking any rules," the site notes. Added a Google spokesperson, "Google sources satellite imagery from third-party providers, who are responsible for complying with any applicable law." 

Screenshot by Jován Pulgarín/CNET

The image looks like what you'd expect a satellite image of a desert base to look like. Nestled in a huge desert expanse, there are roads, nondescript buildings, parking lots, runways and several visible aircraft. Despite zooming in as far as I could, however, I was unable to see ET.  

The tongue-in-cheek Alien 51 Facebook event, titled Storm Area 51, They Can't Stop All of Us, first appeared on the site in July. 

"We will all meet up at the Area 51 Alien Center tourist attraction and coordinate our entry," it read. "If we Naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets. Let's see them aliens." "Naruto run" refers to the main character in the eponymous Naruto anime.

More than 2 million people have signed up for the event, and 1.4 million more are "interested" in attending. And while the event's fake, creator Mathew Roberts has put together a real festival instead that will take place somewhere other than a secret military base. Roberts says he expects around 20,000 people to attend that event. 

Area 51, a remote detachment of Edwards Air Force Base within the Nevada Test and Training Range, reportedly got its name when, in 1951, the remains of the alleged Roswell UFO (said to have crashed in 1947) were brought to the base. In 2013, the CIA issued a 355-page declassified report detailing the birth of Area 51 and the U-2 spy planes developed and tested there.

The US Air Force has issued a warning to would-be alien hunters  interested in attending the desert event, saying troops stand ready to protect Area 51. 

It's unknown what Sept. 20 will bring for Area 51 and environs, but it is known the stunt is presenting all sorts of marketing opportunities. The Belize Tourism board, for example, is offering free Central American vacations to Nevada locals wishing to escape the chaos. Even the official Ghostbusters movie got in on the madness with a bit of advice. 

Whatever happens next month, let's just hope we're not looking at another Fyre festival disaster

Originally published Aug. 6, 2:27 p.m. PT.
Update, 4:09 p.m. PT: Adds comment from Google spokesperson.