Inside the Mysterious Area 51: Aliens, UFOs, Conspiracies and More

Area 51, a top-secret U.S. military facility in the Nevada desert, has been at the center of many conspiracy theories for decades, many of which conclude that Area 51 conducts tests on alien life and UFOs. The highly guarded government location releases very little information to the public leaving much room for speculation—the government didn't even formally acknowledge the existence of Area 51 until 2013. In 2019, thousands of alien enthusiasts stormed the surrounding area after a "joke" Facebook event was created— that 2 million people responded to. Despite the secrecy and rumors surrounding the location, here are some things we do know.

1. Though we all know Area 51 under that title, the U.S. government's official name for the mysterious location is the Nevada Test and Training Range, which is a unit of the Nellis Air Force Base.

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A car with "Area 51" written on the back drives down the road before the start of a "Storm Area 51" spin-off event called "Area 51 Basecamp" on September 20, 2019 near Alamo, Nevada. The event is a spin-off from the original "Storm Area 51" Facebook event, which jokingly encouraged participants to rush Area 51 military base in order to "see them aliens." Mario Tama/Getty

2. The base was built in 1955 initially to serve as a test facility for the U-2 Plane which was developed under the code name Project Aquatone. The plane was built in Burbank, California, before it was sent for testing.

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A satellite Image of Area 51 captured on April 29, 2018. maps4media/Getty

3. In addition to the U-2 plane, during the Cold War, the area was used as a location to develop various spy reconnaissance planes, including the A-12, which flew at remarkably fast speeds.

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A commuter bus travels along an unpaved road from the top-secret military installation at the Nevada Test and Training Range known as Area 51 on July 22, 2019, near Rachel, Nevada. David Becker/Getty

4. The U-2 plane could fly at an altitude of 70,000 feet—much higher than any other aircraft at the time and the A-12 which was said to be nearly undetectable to radar and could fly across the continental United States in just over an hour at 2,200 miles an hour.

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A photo of Area 51 captured in February 1996—years before the government would officially acknowledge its existence. James Aylott/Getty

5. According to the CIA, the name Area 51 comes from its map designation. Though, the area has been given numerous names including Watertown, which is said to have been inspired by CIA Director Allen Dulles' birthplace of Watertown, New York.

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Guard Gate at Area 51 also known as Groom Lake or Dreamland near Rachel, Nevada. Barry King/WireImage/Getty

6. Other names for the area include Paradise Ranch and Dreamland. Paradise Ranch was created in order to make the facility sound more attractive to those that would be working there.

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Law enforcement officers stand guard at a fence in an area attendees gathered to "storm" Area 51 at an entrance near Rachel, Nevada, on September 20, 2019. BRIDGET BENNETT/Getty

7. Before World War II, the area that is now known as Area 51 was used for silver and lead mining. Once the war began, the military took over the remote area and began conducting research mostly relating to nuclear and weapons testing.

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A sign located at Area 51 indicating to visitors not to trespass. Barry King

8. The public is unable to visit the grounds which are constantly under guard. The closest visitors can get is just to the gates for a possible photo-op with the no-tresspassing signs. Even the airspace above Area 51 is restricted unless you have specific permission.

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Alien-hunters gather to "storm" Area 51 at an entrance to the military facility near Rachel, Nevada, on September 19, 2019. BRIDGET BENNETT/Getty

9. In 2019, Area 51 made headlines again when a Facebook event was created by a 21-year-old from California entitled "Storm Area 51—They Can't Stop All of Us," that over 2 million people responded to.

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Magnets are displayed at Alien Research Center, an alien themed gift shop, on September 13, 2019 in Hiko, Nevada. BRIDGET BENNETT/Getty

10. According to a Gallup poll conducted in 2019, 68 percent of respondents said that they think the U.S. government knows more about UFOs than it reveals. A majority of respondents said they themselves have not seen a UFO, but 16 percent said they had.

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An attendee wears a tinfoil hat at Alienstock festival on the "Extraterrestrial Highway" in Rachel, Nevada, on September 20, 2019. BRIDGET BENNETT/Getty

11. One of the many theories related to Area 51 is that in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947, remains from a flying saucer that supposedly crashed were brought to the site in an attempt to create an extraterrestrial spacecraft.

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Graffiti along the "Extraterrestrial Highway" in Hiko, Nevada, on September 19, 2019. BRIDGET BENNETT/Getty

12. It is located somewhere between mile markers 29 and 30 on State Highway 375 off an unmarked dirt road. Over the years, Highway 375 has taken on the nickname of "extraterrestrial highway."

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Rachel, Nevada has a population of 54 and is one of the closest towns to Area 51. Getty/BRIDGET BENNETT

13. Rachel, Nevada, the town closest to Area 51, has a population of 54 and only one business: a restaurant and bar called Little A'Le'Inn. During the Storm Area 51 events in 2019, the restaurant was a focal point for visitors.

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Little A'Le'Inn is the only business in Rachel, Nevada. Sydney Martinez/TravelNevada

14. The first association to aliens came from a 1989 interview with a man who claimed to have worked on Area 51. Robert Lazar gave a then-anonymous interview with a Las Vegas news station claiming that Area 51 housed and studied alien spacecraft and that his job was to re-create the technology for military use.

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Barbed wire borders a gate of the Nevada Test and Training Range, commonly referred to as Area 51, near Rachel, Nevada, on September 13, 2019. BRIDGET BENNETT/Getty

15. Lazar's credibility was soon shaken when school records disproved his claim that he attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology or California Institute of Technology.

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Attendees dance to music during Alienstock festival on the "Extraterrestrial Highway in Rachel, Nevada, on September 20, 2019. A joke Facebook event named "Storm Area 51, They Can't Stop All of Us," was created in June 2019. BRIDGET BENNETT/Getty

16. The government only formally acknowledged the existence of Area 51 in 2013 when the CIA declassified documents about the development of the U-2 and A-12. Up to that point, all that was known about the site was based on rumor.

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A sign outside the Little A'Le'Inn information center and inn in Rachel, Nevada, on September 13, 2019. BRIDGET BENNETT/Getty

17. Roswell has many UFO tourist attractions, including the International UFO Museum and Research Center and Alien Zone, which sells Area 51 merchandise as well as other out-of-this-world experiences.

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A bus arrives for a "Storm Area 51" spin-off event on September 20, 2019 in Rachel, Nevada. Mario Tama/Getty

18. We know what type of aircrafts were being developed in the area until the 1970s, but after that, it's a mystery. To this day, Area 51 is still an active base developing military technology.

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The entrance to Alienstock festival is marked on the road in Rachel, Nevada on September 20, 2019 BRIDGET BENNETT/Getty

19. Despite all the intrigue surrounding Area 51, it is not in fact a tourist attraction. There are many no trespassing signs as well as heavy security, so the closest you can get to a photo-op on the grounds is with a sign.

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Area 51 is located off of an unmarked road along the "Extraterrestrial highway." BRIDGET BENNETT/Getty

20. But, there are certainly plenty of extraterrestrial tourist attractions (and traps) near the site including the extraterrestrial highway itself along route 375. So if your next road trip takes you through Nevada, some out-of-this world entertainment awaits.

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A biker pictured in front of a road sign for the "Extraterritorial Highway." Sydney Martinez/TravelNevada