To cleanse the palate, I’m tossing this out there because I’m honestly curious what Gizmodo’s photo gallery might show and it’s a cinch that some of our eagle-eyed military readers will have insightful feedback.

My own theory? Three words: Chinese Death Star.

They seem to be wide lines drawn with some white material. Or maybe the dust have been dug by machinery.

It’s located in Dunhuang, Jiuquan, Gansu, north of the Shule River, which crosses the Tibetan Plateau to the west into the Kumtag Desert. It covers an area approximately one mile long by more than 3,000 feet wide.

The tracks are perfectly executed, and they seem to be designed to be seen from orbit.

Perhaps it’s some kind of targeting or calibrating grid for Chinese spy satellites? Maybe it’s a QR code for aliens? Nobody really knows.

There’s another photo that appears to show some type of nuclear complex that’s … 10 miles long. Over at New Scientist, they think it’s much ado about nothing:

Slightly more likely is that it is being used to give China’s upcoming spacecraft some kind of frame of reference. China’s crewed Shenzhou 7 mission, launched in September 2008, released a small satellite that orbited the crew capsule a few kilometres away: Japanese researchers believe it was testing a quantum key distribution system between the spacecraft and satellite. Could a ground-to-space system need some kind of elaborate ground sight?

Probably not. My money’s on it being a target practice range for the People’s Liberation Army.

Why? One of the other formations gives the game away: looking tantalisingly like Stonehenge from a great height, zooming in reveals three aircraft sitting at it’s heart. Clearly, it is some kind of military target for airstrike or gunnery practice. Another 4 x 4 piece grid some 200 metes across has some pieces clearly blown to smithereens, again supporting the target practice theory, and a dummy runway in garish bluish-white is probably not for style-conscious aliens but air-to-ground strafing practice.

My favorite theory about the “grid” photo, via Gizmodo’s comments, is that it’s a representation of … the street layout of Washington D.C. For pure sinister genius, that’ll never be topped. Three problems, though. One: If you follow the link and look at the commenter’s overlay of the grid with D.C.’s map, it just doesn’t match up. If China wanted to duplicate Washington’s streets, they’d do it letter perfect. Two: Why would China want to duplicate Washington’s streets? With all due respect to America’s banker, they’re not going to be able to swing an amphibious invasion of D.C. to collect repayment on our debt anytime soon. Three: In the age of GPS, I’m guessing you don’t need visual cues to target a city from the air with bombers or ICBMs. Just punch in the latitude and longitude and let the machine do the rest.

So, no, it’s not a mock-up of D.C. But what is it? Intergalactic bar code? First stirrings of yet another ghost city? What?