Kids these days turn to Google for everything. From homework questions to how stuff works, looking for suggestions on what to eat, or maybe even binge-watching the Earth from above. Otherwise, what else could explain a user spotting a B-2 stealth bomber on Google Maps?
Built by Northrop Grumman for approximately $737 million each during the Cold War era, the B-2 are known for their specially designed skins that keep them off the radars. There are only 21 such aircraft in the world and reports suggest that only an hour-long flight of these aircraft requires 119 hours of maintenance afterward. To have found one such aircraft midflight in the sea of airplanes that occupy our skies is truly a unique event.
The location of the aircraft is about 25 miles (40 km) north of the Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, where the B-2 are currently stationed, and is expected to also host the upcoming B-21s. So, it is not big of a surprise that the aircraft was spotted there. Capable of flying at 628 mph (~1,000 kph), the aircraft is subsonic but the image appears as the aircraft is flying at high speed with its shape not captured precisely.
However, it has nothing to do with the speed of the aircraft. As TechRadar explains, it all comes down to the way satellites deployed for services like Google Maps take images. Most cameras that we use have a sensor that captures the light that falls on them to form an image.
A satellite camera, however, is surveying a large object and does not deploy the same technique. Instead, it measures certain wavelengths of light such as red, green, and blue and then combines all of them to make a single image, which in this case, gives a blurred image. TechRadar also goes on to quote a Google spokesperson who said that the images that are displayed on their apps are also composed of several images, which can also give rise to certain artifacts such as a plane under the surface of the sea that was spotted in 2018.