The 'Radio Tower'


They stay still. But they do their eerie dance right where they've always been, just west of the Border Patrol's red signal tower. Way out there in the Chisos. Out where there are no roads or buildings or airports or towns or houses or even campfires. Where there is no source for the lights. No source anyone can explain, anyway. ( Copyright 1999 Coller-Times, Elaine Liner)

Bill Baker notes that the "The small red light in the center is the radio tower. Lights travel from left to right (east to west), down the mountain." It isn't very clear which one this is from the unmarked photo, although Chinati Peak is a good bet. He identifies the other lights in this picture are the 'Lights' that everyone talks about. The map below looks like a tourist map, and gives a bit more info:

From Bakers photo, and the height of Mt. Chinati as 0.8 degrees, the apparent height of the tower light above the floor of the desert is about 0.2 degrees, and from the map above which shows the tower at a distance of about 9 miles along the line of sight from the Viewing Area, this works out to a height for the tower of : 9 x 5280 ( 0.2/57.5) = 165 feet. This is within the right order of magnitude for the size of a radio tower, but without an exact height, this doesnt help locate the structure on a map. I will need to get some other info about it.

I used MapQuest and the USGS to gather aerial imagery and topographical maps of the area so that I can understand what the above picture is showing and what lies between this viewing area and the distant horizon. This study has been very helpful to me to get my bearings so that I can make sense of all the sightings and what they mean in terms of the many prevailing hypothesis about what the lights are. One thing I want to know is whether the story that McDonald Observatory telescopes were trained on this area to observe the lights. This doesn't make sense because the lights would be below the horizon of viewing for the telescope situated in a standard dome.

From the MapQuest topographical maps which are quite good, I created a large map which revealed a number of important things in the field of view looking south and southwest of the Viewing Area.

3.3) Relationship of UTRAO array to the 'radio tower' light seen from Viewing Area. 

When I discovered that there was a radio telescope array south of the Viewing Area, I assumed that the 'Radio Tower' light which has often been cited by viewers as a 'steady landmark' was simply a light associated with the array. The identification of the two peaks in Item 3.2 above, together with the map in Item 2.2, shows that from the Viewing Area, the array lights would be to the east of Mount San Jacinto. It would not be to the west of San Jacinto, unless both the map in Item 2.2, and Bakers photo were wrong. Baker's photo could have been taken further east on Highway 90 so that additional parallax would move the UTRAO lights into the right orientation for his photo, but 1) I have no evidence that the array is even lit by a beacon, 2) Baker says he took the photo at the Viewing Area. A simple calculation, given the distance to the UTRAO, would allow me to calculate how far from the Airbase on 90 he would have had to be in order for the supposed UTRAO beacon to interfere. This will be done at a later time.

I looked at the MapQuest topographical maps for any indication of a 'tower' in the area indicated by the map above. There is a spot marked 'landing strip' located about 3.5 miles northwest of the center of the array, based on what my mosaic map indicates, and the estimated position of the crude dot on the map above. When I looked at MapQuest at this spot, it showed the V-shaped landing strip, but no indication of a 'radio tower' or a beacon.

The location of this 'Radio Tower' remains a bit of a mystery for now, but one I will have to try to resolve. Based on the line of sight from the Viewing Area to Mount San Jacinto, even this landing strip seems too far to the east to be plausible. I will have to do a wider search of the topographic maps to see what turns up.

The following was based on my old assumption that the two peaks on the horizon are Chinati and Cienega. As of January 28, I no longer consider this to be the case.

 [January 24, 2001] I used Baker's photo to measure the distance of the 'Radio Tower' light from the two peaks, then transfered this to my map and drew a line from the Viewing Area that gives the same angular separation. I then searched along this line on the high-resolution topo maps, and the one at to see if any feature shows up. Here's a table of non-geographic objects along that line. I give the distance of the object from the Viewing Area along the line of constant 'theta'.

0 km Main Gate 5.2km .... Four unimproved roads come to a single intersection 100 meters to the east of the line. Elevation 4764 feet.

5.8 km.... The Atchinson-Topeka-Santa Fe railroad tracks cross the path. Elevation 4750 feet.

5.9 km... There is the Triangle Windmill located 400 meters to the east. Elevation 4760 feet

7.7 km.... There is an intersection with the railroad crossing an inproved road (solid parallel lines) and two unimproved roads. A likely place for a light indicating a RR crossing. Elevation 4700 feet. Nopal peak nearby (elev = 4734)

10.0 km.... The Antelope Spring Ranch is 1 km to the east of the East Transit line. This ranch includes a pair of windmills Elevation 4645 feet.

12.0 km...There is a junction of 4 unimproved roads and a windmill. Elevation 4598 feet. However, this feature lies just behind Nopal 'peak' which is located at 8.5 km and has an elevation of 4734 feet. This is 110 feet higher than the Junctions elevation so this may well block anything at the junction.

16.0 km...A landing strip ( elevation 4632 feet) with two strips. The first is nearly parallel to the Transit line. The second points off to the northeast. There is sill nothing interesting on the West Transit, so in what follows I will only follow the East Transit.

20.0 km... There is a feature called 'Lake Windmill' at the edge of a dried up pond. Elevation 4610 feet. According to my mosaic map, I am now well to the east of the actual transit line when I take the angle I have been following and map it back onto the mosaic map. I have now gone 23 kilometers along what I assumed was the original East Transit. I will now switch to a lower resolution map and resume.

24 km...Distance approximate. There is a feature called 'Rim Windmill' elevation 4606 feet about 2 km west of the Lake Windmill. It is nearly underneath the original East Transit line on the mosaic, but of course now all angles are suspect so the best I can say is that the Transit is running somewhere between these two places.

At this distance, and near the Rim Windmill, I am in the vicinity ( ca a few miles?) of where the map in Item 2.2 claims there is a Radio Tower.


Copyright (C) 2001 Dr. Sten Odenwald