What do you see from the Viewing Area?

... The lights appear in an area SW of Chinati Mountain, on Mitchell Flat, near Twin Peaks, and over the flat prairie north of Cuesto Del Burro Mountains.. A roadside plaque on US 90, 8 miles E of Marfa commemorates the lights. An abandoned USAF base is nearby... The Lights, which most people describe as spherical, appear south of Marfa each evening. They appear to bounce around, vanish, then re-appear elsewhere. According to the legend, these lights have been observed since the 1800s. The Lights have become an important tourist attraction in Marfa, a town that has seen much better days. On a nice evening, dozens of people will stop and view the Lights at the "official" viewing area, about 10 miles east of town on Highway 90. (http://www.crystalinks.com/lightballs.html

2.2) Here is a map from .... web page. The one on the right is from (http://www.theoutlaws.com/marfa.htm)

2.3) The next illustration, below, is a photograph of the general direction of where the lights seem to come, from the perspective of the Highway 90 Viewing Area The photo appears in Bill Baker's web page and was taken just before sunset on Sunday, May 25, 1997. There is no information given about the exact viewing direction, but it is said to be in the direction where the Lights appear.


3...Terraine Relief.

3.1) Foreground out to 10 miles. The landscape is fairly flat across the airfield and out to the UTRAO installation. From the topographical maps by MapQuest, the area around the airfield is at an elevation of 4903 feet ( a benchmark is near the main entrance. Following a southwest transect, it dips to 4820 feet by the southwest corner of the base, then 4655 feet by the time you get to the center of the observatory. There are some minor variations on this. Also, the contours are closer together near Observatory than near the airbase suggesting a slightly faster fall off there. The land is tilted on a roughly southwest to northeast slope with higher elevations near the airbase. This probably reflects the local geology which has this region as the runoff from the distant mountains. When you are standing at the Viewing Area, you will be looking downslope towards the Observatory lights.

2.4) The distant mountain range is, evidently, the Chinati Mountains. Chinati Peak has an elevation of 7730 feet according to the Rand McNally Road Atlas for Texas (cited by Texas State Library and Archives Commission: http://www.tsl.state.tx.us/ref/abouttx/mountains.html)

2.5) The first thing to note is the very flat terrain and the vegetation coverage which is a low grass and shrub mixture. This is what James Long noted in his description.

Copyright (C) 2001 Dr. Sten Odenwald