FAQ: “Weird Circles” Seen From Space

crop circles center pivot irrigation in Google EarthOne of the most frequently asked questions (FAQ) from people new to exploring our world from space is “What are these strange circles I see all over the place?” (or some variation). The Google Earth Community (GEC) has seen this question asked countless times. One of the GEC members ‘Chief_Sparky’ recently collected some information explaining the circles from various sources to try and help people understand what they are (and no, they aren’t made by aliens).
You can read the detailed explanation above. Here’s my variation: The circles are areas where the land has been watered by an irrigation system (sprinklers) which are attached to the ground at the center and rotate around (usually on wheels). Usually found in arid parts of the world such as the States of Arizona, Nebraska, Colorado, etc. they will vary in color based on time of year, crop, and type of land. The irrigation systems are also called “center pivot irrigation”.
Some people use crop fields and stomp down areas to form geometric patterns when viewed from above. These are called, ironically, “crop circles”. Here’s a good article on the subject from the WikiPedia. Some people have assumed the designs were drawn by aliens. At the GEC, one enterprising member is collecting crop circles found by GE users in Google Earth. You can find more details on the collection here.

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.


  1. This is my first visit to this site and I was so pleased to see the explanation for the circles on the ground for when we flew into the USA a few years ago we saw these and the air crew knew nothing and could not answer our questions, though I did wonder if it was something to do with irrigation as we have similar ones here in the UK.

  2. Hi
    There are two variants of crop circles, which have been confused here.
    Neither are made by aliens.
    The first type of crop circles are those described accurately by “center pivot irrigation”.
    The second type, where patterns are formed to be DELIBERATELY viewed from the air, are entirely different. These are usually made by pranksters with bits of string and rope. They can sometimes be very elaborate.

  3. I suppose other round features that may be mistaken would be water treatment plants and possibly big, round pits containing oil (i have lived in the Middle East and seen these first-hand in the desert)
    But the irrigation seems most likey and logical, unless oil is green?…

  4. I come from a family of farmers in Kansas, USA. The above pictures look to me to be center pivot irragation crops…If you use Google Earth and take a look at kansas, you can see them pretty much anywhere.

  5. I flew last week from LA to NYC and saw these circles over Nebraska. Such an awesome site and the near perfect sub divided farms as far as the eye could see. Wonderful and justifies my obsession to always take the window seat, even though my legs are longer than some tall basketball players……..

  6. YUP just like the space ship that crashed with an alien in it was oop’s We made a mistake it was only a weather Balloon, ya sure
    Even the BIBLE says Aliens do excist. I didn’t know mountains had crops either. or what about the space equipment, star system like things in the mountains as well. Just look in the mountains you will see. what about a desert with no grass in Saudia they have them too. and so does New Zealand.
    Why are so many all over the States? a lot lot more thousands then anywhere else?
    and way too big to be crops, look at the roads and cars etc… size diff. focus in on Monteview USA.

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