X-ray vision has long been relegated to the fantastical world of comic books and science fiction, where you might see Superman peering through a wall in an effort to catch the bad guys, or where some intergalactic hero has picked up a high-tech device somewhere in their intergalactic travels that would allow them the ability to circumvent the commonly understand rules of light and physics.
But there are obviously some ways in which our world does allow us to pull back the curtain like this. MRI and hospital imaging centers are one such example.
As it turns out, the Chinese spy balloon that Joe Biden allowed to traverse our nation before engaging with it may have also been in possession of something capable of parting the literal clouds.
In February, a high-altitude balloon with surveillance capabilities connected to China flew over the continental US before being shot down over the Atlantic.
At the time, much about the balloon wasn’t known publicly, but a new trove of Pentagon documents leaked on Discord show it — and up to four other previously unknown spy balloons like it — could have had a feature known as “synthetic aperture radar” that can see through certain objects, the Washington Post reported.
So, what exactly does this technology accomplish?
Synthetic aperture radar is the solution to the problem with real aperture radar, which cannot create high-resolution images without an impractically large antenna. SAR “synthesizes” a large antenna, but the concept is the same — it releases bursts of electromagnetic energy to an object on Earth, and a sensor then records the wavelength of energy it receives back, according to NASA. These sensor readings then allow the radar to create a reconstruction of whatever objects are below the energy beam.
Because SAR isn’t taking photos and is instead using electromagnetic data to create a high-resolution image, the technology can “see” in the dark, as well as through clouds, smoke, soil, and rain. It can also help with three-dimensional reconstructions, unlike cameras, which can only capture what is openly visible from above.
The technology isn’t terribly new, with NASA and some other high-level government and military programs having employed it beginning just after World War II.
This does not, however, diminish the danger of allowing Beijing to overtly spy on American citizens.
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