A Tucson graveyard for retired warplanes is in the global limelight after a satellite photo released by Google Earth spread like wildfire around the world.
The image taken from space, showing hundreds of old military jets resting on the desert floor at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, has been plastered all over the information superhighway in recent weeks, turning up on scores of blogs and Web sites, and in dozens of newspapers and magazines.
Suddenly, people around the planet are hearing about the local landmark known as "the boneyard" on their laptops, BlackBerrys and iPhones.
"It's gone viral," said Terry Pittman of the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, referring to the surge in public interest that often follows when a topic becomes highly popular on the Internet.
The 309th, which runs the boneyard, has had a slew of inquiries from reporters, photographers, travel bloggers and documentary makers as a result, Pittman said.
It all began a few weeks ago, when a London newspaper reported - incorrectly - that Google Earth had just released satellite photography of the boneyard for the first time.
In fact, said Google spokeswoman Kate Hurowitz, the imagery in question was taken in 2007 by the U.S. Geological Survey and has been available on Google Earth for nearly three years.
But no matter.
The image proved so intriguing that news outlets around the world seized on it, each repeating the London paper's error about the timing of the photo's release.
The list of countries in which the photo has recently appeared reads like a United Nations roster.
It includes Japan, India, Italy, Indonesia, Greece, Poland, Russia, Hungary, Romania, Vietnam, Canada, France and Britain.
The image also has turned up in the United States on an array of sites, including a National Public Radio blog and the home page of Popular Science magazine.
That sort of free advertising could be a big boost to the Pima Air and Space Museum, which runs tours of the boneyard, and to Tucson tourism in general, said Kimberly Schmitz, of the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"When you've got something coming up on Google like that, it's almost the epitome," Schmitz said. "It puts us in front of so many new eyes, among people who perhaps hadn't thought of Tucson as a destination before."
Scott Marchand, of the Pima Air and Space Museum, estimated that up to 40,000 visitors a year already take the boneyard tour.
He said it's too early to tell if the Internet publicity will affect ticket sales.
But "if they come," he said, "we're ready."
Contact reporter Carol Ann Alaimo at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 573-4138.