Located near what may be the world’s longest landing strip, the colossal compass rose painted onto the dry(ish) lakebed at Edwards Air Force Base, was created as an analog directional device at the emergency landing strip.
While Roger’s Lake sometimes fills with a shallow bit of rain water, it is almost exclusively dry, creating a large, unchanging stretch of land, perfect for a massive marker such as the compass rose that was installed there decades ago. In addition to the large amount of unbroken land, free of markers or debris that would make the marker unclear, the surface of the lakebed only has an elevation variance of millimeters every few meters. This flatness ensures that the points and degrees of the compass can be seen clearly both from greater distances and from most any direction. With a diameter of over 4,000 feet, the huge compass (which is almost perfectly aligned with magnetic north) is ideal for use by aircraft that may have malfunctioning or non-functioning equipment. Setting a world record is just a nice byproduct.
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L.A. Science Weekend: Natural History and Space
Join New York Times Journeys and Atlas Obscura for three days of scientific learning in Los Angeles, focused on natural history and zoology or space and aviation. This two-track program includes talks, exclusive visits and special access to scientists and venues to get up close to everything from telescopes and taxidermy to dinosaur skeletons and space artifacts.