Located on a remote portion of land along the southern shore of Groom Lake, approximately eighty-three miles northwest of downtown Las Vegas, Nevada, is a top secret U.S. military installation known as Area 51. Since its construction in 1955, a numerical quandary has left many a conspiracy theorist scratching their head and wondering, “What exactly does the ’51′ in Area 51 refer to?” The answer has less to do with alien autopsies than with mundane land surveying.
A cryptonym is a secret name or code word that usually relates to a classified military operation. Most notably, the Central Intelligence Agency, or CIA, has used code names to reference people, operations and other agencies since it was established in 1947. Hoping to attract workers to the base to begin testing on the new U-2 Spy Plane, Area 51 was originally named Paradise Ranch. However, this blissful alias soon gave way to its more famous, cryptic code name.
The number 51 refers to the grid, or parcel of land, that the secret military base sits on. Maps dating back to the 1950s mark the area of land surrounding Groom Lake, approximately 6 miles north-to-south by 10 miles east-to-west, as Area 51. A small nuclear testing site located just to the north is called Area 13 – also named for the stretch of land it occupies. So the numeral does not designate the 51st flying saucer found in Nevada, nor anything else related to extraterrestrials.