Today in weird news that could spark a conspiracy theory, there are “crop circles” popping up in forests in Japan. But don’t get too excited: It’s not alien communication––it’s actually a science experiment that dates back to 1973.
Aerial photos taken high above the Japanese cedar tree forests of the Miyazaki prefecture have been making their rounds on the Internet. The shots show strange circular formations of trees, much like the crop circles you see in Sci-Fi films and, if you’re lucky, in real life. But don’t let your imagination get too far ahead of you: This mystery was quickly solved with help from one document in particular.
According to DesignBoom, the document breaks down a 1973 forestry experiment that dealt with tree spacing. The photographed region was part of a study to see how planting the cedar trees in 10-degree radial increments would affect future growth. Once the trees were planted and the experiment was underway, there were a total of 10 concentric circles waiting to reveal themselves.
Originally, the plan was to harvest the trees after five years, but local forestry officials are looking into keeping the trees around. You can even check out the peculiar formations on Google Maps, if you’re in the market for a midday mental vacation. A quick Google Maps search for the “Japan Cycle Tree” will get you to the right place, just make sure you’re viewing the map in satellite mode.