Mystery Photo

What in the world is it?

Mystery Photo

Don’t peek at the answer until you’ve given this a good try! Then, scroll down a bit and the truth will be revealed to you.

(Image Credit: USGS)

What is "world" is it? Well, of course it’s an oblique aerial view of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. But that’s not what’s so mysterious. The mystery is how this photo was taken, where it was taken from, and when!

Believe it or not, this picture-perfect snapshot was taken from Earth orbit by Keyhole-7 — a U.S. spy satellite. If you think that’s amazing resolution for a spy satellite, consider this: the image was taken on March 20, 1966, at the height of the Cold War. During that time, U.S. spy satellites were snooping around and snapping images like these all across the globe — solely for intelligence-gathering purposes. It was also the intelligence community’s first high-resolution imaging satellite.

Once regarded as "Top Secret," this image, among others, was recently declassified. It is one of many thousands that the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), and the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) are ready to make available to the public.

The release of the satellite imagery is a move by government agencies to promote a spirit of openness, demonstrate results of taxpayer investment in national security, and to ensure that researchers, from environmentalists to historians have access to useful and unique sources of information.