It’s both the stuff of legend and one of the world’s worst kept secrets. Area 51, the U.S. Air Force’s covert research facility in the Nevada desert—the place that everyone already knew existed—now officially exists, too.
National Geographic wrote two years ago that “the CIA created Area 51 in 1955 to test and develop top secret U.S. military projects in the remote Nevada desert. More than 50 years later, the base still doesn’t officially exist and appears on no public U.S. government maps.” But “newly released CIA documents” have undone that last shred of non-existence, says CNN. The newly declassified documents “officially acknowledge the site.”
The CIA documents confirming Area 51′s—or Groom Lake’s—existence, says CNN, “were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by Jeffrey T. Richelson, a senior fellow at the National Security Archives, in 2005.”
The document containing the admission, says the Atlantic Wire’s Philip Bump, details the history of the Lockheed U-2 spy plane, a high-altitude reconnaissance plane designed in the 1950s. The U-2 was tested at Area 51, and the plane is still in service. But the U-2 history document is long, and many more secrets may be buried within. Don’t get too excited, though: “the newly released documents make no mention of alien autopsy rooms or spaceship parking lots,” says CNN. Not that they’d tell you anyway, right?
More from Smithsonian.com: