Giant Manmade Optical Targets on the Earth's Surface — Who Knew?


For those of you with obviously dangerous quantities of spare time on their hands and who have been wondering about my sharply decreased Internet participation over the last few months, part of it can be traced back to this little oddment:

The 1951 USAF Resolving Power Test Target (MIL-STD-150A)

A whopping few inches on each side, for several decades this gem of optical engineering design (more about that later), has been a literal workhorse in military and technical circles. Though technically obsolete, this optics calibration device continues to live on in numerous catalogs of commercial houses that sell photo-imaging tools and equipment. To paraphrase American humorist, Mark Twain, "rumors of its demise are greatly exaggerated".

And so it is that this particular artifact of military history has found its way into an invention that I am currently taking to market. This work is an onerous task whose demands have diverted me away from such otherwise mundane activities as posting on the Internet, socializing or even eating and bathing on a regular schedule.

Over the course of researching this Cold War relic, I continually stumbled across aerial images (see below), which I took to be humorous photoshopped images or "fauxtography" that showed replicas of this pattern embedded into the earth's terrain. Sort of like those people with bar code tattoos on their necks. We won't even go into happy fun Japanese bar codes.

Little did I know that these sites are the real thing such that even today they remain in use to test and calibrate high resolution cameras in drones, spy planes and photoreconnaissance satellites.

(For those who are curious, the jet plane residing beside that target array in the bottom most photo is one of only two prototypes ever built of the obscure Northrup X-21, an experimental craft with laminar flow wings.)

So, here we are at ground level, an image I just found this evening which finally convinced me that this was not some sort of Area 51-style hoax. In fact, it was just weird enough to make me uncloak and post something other than my recent spate of blitheringly humorous articles.

Who knew?

The following image demonstrates some of the amazing spatial harmonics that appear in this enduring design. Below it appears my own rendering that contains guidelines intended to highlight these mathematically appealing relationships.

Finally, as proof of how truly arcane a place like BLDGBLOG is, take a gander at this time lapse "flipbook" of some cross sectioned 2 X 4 studs. As the blog notes:

In the second video, below, the wood seems to mimic the rings of Saturn, a planetary concentricity occasionally crossed and streaked by foreign objects (for example, see the event at 00:18-00:19 or rewatch the weird knotted prominence, like a solar storm in wood, that appears at 00:51-00:59).

Tags: 1951 USAF Optical Resolving Power Test Target, Photoreconnaissance, Drones, Spy Planes, Satellites, Earth-Based Test Sites, Military Technology, Optics, WFT? To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the Patriot's Corner. Thanks!

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