No, This Plane Almost Certainly Didn’t Fly In A Pentagram Shape Over Melbourne

No, This Plane Almost Certainly Didn’t Fly In A Pentagram Shape Over Melbourne
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In case you hadn’t realised, conspiracy theories are having a bit of a moment. Turns out a pandemic, social networks that incentivise emotion and outrage, and falling trust in institutions have primed people to believe some wild stuff. Like, for example, that someone’s using a plane to make satanic pentagram symbol over our cities.

On Saturday, a few hundred people marched in Melbourne, Australia to protest the state’s COVID-19 public health restrictions.

During the day, researcher Cam Smith noticed on Twitter that some of Australia’s more conspiratorial minded folk were getting in a tizzy over a plane’s movements in the skies above. He shared a screenshot that was uploaded that ‘showed’ a plane’s pentagram-shaped flightpath.

This was widely shared by conspiracy theorists across Facebook, Twitter and Reddit as ‘proof’ that something nefarious was happening (what, exactly, was not made clear).

Why did people think there was a plane flying in a pentagram shape over Melbourne?

Except, that almost certainly didn’t happen. There’s conflicting evidence about what the aircraft’s flight path was, and whether the flight tracker’s information was reliable.

All the screenshots used to promote this theory use the same service: AirNav Radarbox. However, as other Twitter users noticed, other flight trackers charted a slightly different course for the plane. Here’s one alternative:

And another:

While both show largely the same pattern over Melbourne, the pentagram shape is missing — replaced by just a circle.

So what could explain the flight paths? Well, according to Smith again, the pentagram shape may be an artefact from how Radarbox gets its data.

Gizmodo put this theory to AirNav. A spokesman, Alex Johnson, said there shouldn’t be a glitch in RadarBox’s data, but hasn’t responded to any further questions about this specific flight path.

Other Twitter users have speculated that this plane belongs to Victoria Police, who did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s enquiries.

So while the owner of the airplane is not yet solved, there’s scant evidence supporting the plane’s pentagram flightpath. And even if it did, it doesn’t mean anything!