Crop circles, Google Earth, and the logo mystery

Screen grab of
This is where the crop circles, Google Earth 2009 mystery began.

On Google's homepage today, the search giant swapped out its normal logo for a UFO-themed Google doodle. The illustrated flying saucer carved out "Goog e" in the corn field, and a little green tractor finishes off the "l."

Such logo swaps are common for the tech titan, but what are they celebrating? Most of these "doodles" are tied to a particular anniversary or celebrity birthday. Why crop circles? Why today?

To add to the mystery, Google posted the coordinates "51.327629, -0.5616088" in a cryptic Twitter tweet. Curious searchers identified the spot as Horsell, England. Sci-Fi aficionados may recognize the name. In "War of the Worlds," HG Wells wrote that Horsell residents witnessed the first UFO landing.

This has some Google watchers, including Guardian reporter John Vidal, insisting that the new logo is "almost certainly a viral marketing campaign teasing people ahead of some launch in a week or two. One possible explanation is that it's trailing an online 'happening' that will coincide with the 143rd anniversary of Wells's birth next week."

Interesting theory. With people eager for more answers, online searches for "crop circles google earth" hit "volcanic" popularity this morning, according to Google Trends.

While we wait for more information, here's a little crop-circle fun: YouTube users regularly compile their favorite circle sightings into quick Google Earth videos. Here's one of the best.


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