Telescopic Views


21..."We arrived at the viewing sight well before sunset, and set up a pair of 14x70 Fujinon binoculars, a 60mm. Bushnell Spacemaster with a 22 power wide field eyepiece, and Sue's custom 4.3 in. APO refractor. A careful inspection of the view toward the southwest showed that parts of distant Highway 67, which runs between Marfa and Presidio could clearly be seen through the telescopes. Cars traveling along the road would be visible for seconds to minutes, and then vanish around a curve or in a dip in the road. As the Texas landscape darkened the cars vanished and were replaced by moving lights, red or white, flickering in and out of view. With the naked eye, they did look rather strange, but the telescopes revealed the paired headlights and taillights of cars. While we were there, people arrived to look for the lights. Most quickly spotted the car lights along Route 67, exclaiming, ``There they are!'' Those who looked through the telescopes quickly realized they were nothing unusual. At one point a school bus pulled up, and a group of people got out. The driver launched into a pitch about the Marfa lights, while pointing out the lights along Route 67. They group soon jumped back on the bus, heading home with the knowledge that they had seen the strange and unexplained Marfa lights. Two years later we spent a night in Marfa itself, at a motel sporting a ``Home of the Marfa Lights'' banner. We again visited the official viewing sight, although this time we left the telescope behind. We were not surprised to find people were still pointing to the distant car lights on Route 67 as Marfa Lights. We got to talking with one gentleman, and explained our experiences two years earlier. He admitted some of the lights certainly could be from cars on Route 67, but claimed that the colors were wrong on many of them and that they must be something unusual. At one point he even pointed down Route 90 toward Marfa, claiming the approaching headlights were something else entirely! It would have been nice to have the telescope along, but I doubt he would not have been convinced even then. Some people have a strong desire to believe they have seen something exceptional, and people have a strong tendency to see what they expect. This combination can easily turn the mundane into the unusual. It can also turn the unusual into the bizarre. ( skeptics3.htm ca 1987 Alan French)

 26... Jeff and I had been attending the Texas astronomy party, so I had my eight-inch diameter Celestron telescope with me. For over an hour, I was too fascinated by the Lights to even remember the telescope, but eventually I brought it out of the car and set it up. With this telescope, the Lights were resolvable into obvious fuzzy round balls, apparently several feet in diameter. The telescope verified several observations, and provided several more discoveries. The most significant observation was that the lights truly were all the way to the mountains. The view through the telescope allowed each viewer to verify that the lights were passing behind rocks and cliffs ON the mountain side. Indeed, many, but by no means most, of the blinking observed was due to a Light passing behind a rock and being eclipsed by it. The light shed from the Marfa Light was more than enough to illuminate the rock wall behind the light. Rocks to the front were obvious from their silhouettes. A fascinating discovery from the telescope was that several of the balls were doublets. Often, a single light would appear, and about fifteen to thirty seconds later, a second, identical light appeared right beside the first. Indistinguishable with the naked eye, these balls were obvious pairs through the telescope. These balls would then begin varying in brightness, one going dim while the other brightened, and then the first brightening while the second dimmed. After eight to ten cycles, the balls would usually split up, and separate into two naked eye pairs. This easily ruled out car headlights. One item I found rather disturbing was that whenever another car arrived (people kept arriving for several hours into the night), the watchers already present acted like tour guides for the occult. The newcomers were quickly treated to a lecture by people that had received the same lecture themselves no more than twenty minutes earlier. To my small dismay, Jeff and I fell quite naturally into the "pro" mode. Having been at the viewing site since before dark, we made a point of describing all we had seen that night. We never, thankfully, went so far as the lady next to us, who eagerly attribruted conscious thought to the movements. About midnight, the lights tapered off and came to a halt. In all, there had been lights nearly constantly visible for about four hours. Rarely was there NOT a light visible, and a good deal of the time, three, four or sometimes five lights were seen at once. .( James Long. Georgia Skeptics.)

 47... From: SKEPTIC%YORKVM1.BITNET@CUNYVM.CUNY.EDU@SMTP@CRDGW2 Sender: SKEPTIC Discussion Group From: Hal Finney Subject: The Marfa Lights X-To: skeptic@uunet.UU.NET To: Multiple recipients of list SKEPTIC I spent the summer of 1976 living with my parents in Midland, Texas. I heard about the Marfa lights from co-workers, and decided to drive down to see them. I only went once and just was there for a few hours, so this isn't a comprehensive observation by any means. My observations were not at all in accord with those of James Long of the Georgia Skeptics. Now, I may not have been at exactly the same viewing location. I was on the state highway east of Marfa, as was Long. And the view was the same, looking south across a basically flat plain to a range of low mountains many miles away. But I may have been at a different spot on the highway. I just picked a turnoff area on my own, without having received specific directions about any particular place. At that time the lights were mostly a local phenomenon and hadn't received as much publicity as they have now. The lights I observed differed in two ways from what Long saw. First, they were stationary; and second, they were exactly on the horizon. Each light was white, like a headlight seen from many miles away. But they didn't move. A light would appear, be visible for a minute or two, and then fade away over several seconds. A few minutes later another light would appear at a different spot. Sometimes there might be two or three lights visible at once. By the horizon, I mean the visual line between the mountains and the sky. That is where all of the lights appeared. There was no way to judge the distance to the lights but it was natural to assume that they came from at or beyond the mountains. They did not appear at the base of the mountains and certainly didn't appear on the plain between the mountains and the road, as the lights Long saw did. My feeling at the time was that this was an effect of atmospheric refraction, perhaps caused by a layer of warmer or cooler air near the ground. I felt that this was a kind of mirage, in which we were seeing a distant source of light that was being refracted and focussed as it passed grazingly over the mountains. Because of the fact that the lights lasted a minute or two, and because they are reported to have appeared for over a hundred years, my feeling was that I was seeing focussed starlight. I had also been told that the lights would not appear if it was overcast. Due to the earth's rotation, stars would be continually rising, and at different times it seemed possible that different stars would be in position to be made visible by an atmospheric effect. Perhaps the topography of the mountains was such that some kind of lensing could occur. Rising stars would then move through the focus points of the many different possible lensing positions along the mountains. Whether this explanation is correct or not, I am puzzled by the differences from what Long saw. Also, Unsolved Mysteries did a show on the Marfa lights last year, and I felt that what they showed was identical to what I saw. Their lights were stationary and on the horizon. They certainly didn't move and didn't appear partway between the mountains and the roads. I wonder if Long is the victim of some kind of local prank? Either that, or what I saw (and what the people from Unsolved Mysteries saw) weren't the real Marfa lights. Hal Finney ghsvax! (


28... I set up my telescope at the recommended place about sundown, and a few minutes later we saw the first one. Then another and another. They moved slowly around, disappeared, reappeared. Over the course of an hour and a half, there was usually one visible, and often two or more. If I hadn't had the telescope, if I'd only had binoculars or unaided eye, I would have called them car headlights, nothing more or less. They vary in brightness from headlights seen a couple of miles away to a few blocks away. They appear anywhere from a degree or less above the horizon to several degrees -- the top of the Chinati Mountains, to the southeast of the viewing site. None was ever higher than the ridge line of the mountain range, which would have been interesting. So they could have been just headlights of cars on mountain roads. But in the telescope, at 70X and 140X, they don't appear double; they're round blobs of headlight-colored light. I think they're some optical phenomenon like a mirage, magnifying the light from headlights quite far away. They move at about the right rate and steadiness to be distant cars. Through the telescope I could see hints of extremely faint ones that were headed in the opposite direction, as red as taillights. But even the brightest lights, under the highest magnification, showed no hint of being two lights close together, and they definitely _would_ if I were just looking at headlights a certain distance away. ( April 6, 1998. Joe and Gay Haldeman )


34... and a friend drove down to Marfa, because we wanted to know what it was all about. We brought a 4.5 inch telescope with 700 max magnification, GPS (Global Positioning Satellite system) and a pair of good binoculars. We saw the lights in abundance, at one time as many as 11 in a row, but what we noticed was this. Most of the lights appeared in pairs. When they were about to disappear they got closer and created a cone of light to the side and then red lights were visible behind them. The NEVER lifted of the ground and as a matter of fact we saw bushes come in the foreground when these lights passed between us. Some of the lights appeared as fast burning fire balls, that looked an atom with electrons flying around it, but we could never see the base of the fire. It appeared as if this fire was burring in a barrel the was behind a small ridge. My suspicion at this time is that some one is staging this entire hoax. Through the telescope all the moving lights looked like cars (trucks) driven in circles. Their headlights must have been covered with some type of light filter to prevent it from dispersing the light to a cone. Here are another reasons

 a. If these were fireballs of some type, then the area would be light up in circles of light on the ground, in this case we saw a stretch of light on the ground only in one direction.

 b. Natural gas burns blue with greenish tint, not yellow. Electric discharge is bluish as well.

 c. One and most important fact: The entire area is extremely dry. When the fireballs were burning, why did

they not start a fire on this dried ground? More to the point, as we were setting up our equipment a train drove by. The train tracks and some of the bushes caught on fire. A crew of men were there within minutes extinguishing the fires. No one however seemed to be concerned about the farmland catching on fire during the light display. Why not?

 d. This entire light display was active from 8pm to 10:30pm. It was most intense while a busload of retired folks arrived at the scene.

 These are our observations so far. We will bring an inferred camera with a super zoom next time. If these are cars, they will shine brightly and the details will be so good that we will be able to recognize the faces of the drivers. We will then expose then this entire hoax on the Internet. I will gladly apologize if we are wrong. (( Daniel. - 09/20/98 marfaL12.html )


37... On the road that runs from Marfa to Alpine, the Texas Highway Dept has built a road side park called the Marfa Mystery Lights Viewing Area. It is located about 8 miles east of Marfa at a high point that gives a clear view of the area where the Marfa Lights are seen. I arrived a little before 8PM, right at the end of twilight to find the park completely filled with people -- most of whom were standing on top of the picnic tables --'oohing and 'aahing and generally looking off to the south at something that looked car headlights along the side of a mountain range that was about 15 miles away. I was not immeadiately impressed. Pulling a sweater and my big 11x80 comet binoculars out of the van I began to scan the mountain side looking at the lights. In the binoculars it was clear that these lights were not pin point car headlights but were small glowing disks (or spheres) of light that were a bright yellow orange in color. As each light appeared, you could see it form (only with binoculars) and quickly grow to brilliance -- extremely brilliant. They would keep their peak for 15 seconds to a minute or so and then start to fade. As they faded you could see an orange central disk with a border of faint blue light. At times there were as many as a dozen lights visible at one time and the east to west extent of the area was perhaps 5 miles. As I began to think about how far away I was from the mountain, 15 miles, I realized that to see a clearly formed disk meant that the object must have been the size of a house! The best visual image I can think of would be to think of this phenomena as a "natural gas geyser". The gas building up underground until it rushes up through a crack in the rock and then ignites burning brilliantly until the gas supply was exhausted. The problem is how is the gas ignited? And the gas should burn in a plume not in a ball. As I watched some of the lights, they would dim slightly and then split into two disks -- both disks fading simultaneously. On one occasion I observed one light split into four lights. These four lights were perfectly aligned horizontally and equally spaced -- a sure sign of some kind of man made hoax -- right? The light show lasted for about 40 minutes and then the number of lights appearing rapidly declined and then quit. As I drove back to Alpine I was really stumped by what I had seen. I decided to return to the viewing area the next morning to see it in day light. Standing on a picnic table, I surveyed the area. Mountains at Alpine run to the south as do the mountains at Marfa leaving a prairie (or savannah) between the two that is 26 miles wide. The ridge line where the lights were was close to the horizon and clearly 15 miles away. There is a placard at the viewing area which gives some of the history of the lights including some suggested explanations. But after seeing them for myself, I immediately discounted the suggestions. I returned the next evening to view a second time to see if what I had seen was average, above average, etc. I also decided to arrive earlier -- I wanted to see how long before dark the lights could be seen and I wanted to get one of the good picnic tables. I got there about 7:15PM which was still good daylight. The first light was seen about 7:40 which was just early twilight. The second night, the show was mush less impressive. A much smaller number of lights with never more than three seen at any one time and the show stopped before good dark. (Charlie Miller October 1996, )


 38... The Marfa lights are lights which are visible from a viewing area about 10 miles east of the town of Marfa, Texas. They are the main tourist attraction in the area. The lights are said to appear to bounce around in the sky, vanish and re-appear, and thus are considered a mystery by some. To others, the lights are not a mystery. They are navigational lights for space aliens or ghosts or swamp gas or radioactive bursts or ball lightning. Skeptics who view the lights with strong binoculars claim that they are nothing more than the headlights and tail lights of cars in the Chinati Mountains on U.S. highway 67. (Skeptics Dictionary Robert Todd Carroll)


40... In fact, my son even made his own attempt at explaining the glowing orbs. He was working at the McDonald Observatory, and one night they trained one of their telescopes on the viewing site until they spied some of the glowing lights. Everyone working that night saw them. They pinpointed the location. The next day, they traveled to that exact spot, certain they would find the source. What did they find? Grass, rocks, dirt. That's it. Nothing else. ( from



Copyright (C) 2001 Dr. Sten Odenwald