These lights in this area have persisted all through the 1800s (although the evidence for this is purely anecdotal) and they continue today. These reports often describe brightly glowing basketball size spheres floating above the ground, or sometimes high in the air. Colors are usually described as white, yellow, orange or red, but green and blue are sometimes reported. The balls are said to hover at about shoulder height, or to move laterally at low speeds, or sometimes to shoot around rapidly in any direction. They often appear in pairs or groups, according to reports, to divide into pairs or merge together, to disappear and reappear, and sometimes to move in seemingly regular patterns. Their sizes are typically said to resemble soccer balls or basketballs.
Sightings are reported occasionally and unpredictably, perhaps ten to twenty times a year. There are no reliable reports of daytime sightings; the lights seem to be a nocturnal phenomenon only.
According to the people who claim to have seen the lights, they may appear at any time of night, typically south of U.S. Route 90 and U.S. Route 67, five to fifteen miles east of Marfa, at unpredictable directions and apparent distances. They can persist from a fraction of a second to several hours. There is evidently no connection between appearances of the Marfa lights and anything else besides nighttime hours. They appear in all seasons of the year and in any weather, seemingly uninfluenced by such factors. They sometimes have been observed during late dusk and early dawn, when the landscape is dimly illuminated.
It is extremely difficult to approach an ongoing display of the Marfa lights, mainly due to the dangerous terrain of Mitchell Flat. Also, all of the land where the Marfa Lights are observed is private property, and access is prohibited without explicit permission from the owners. There are only a very few accounts of success in moving very close to observed lights, but those that exist generally describe objects resembling fireworks lacking both smoke and sound.
Less frequent accounts of seemingly similar anomalous nocturnal lights have arisen along a broad and elongated region within west Texas, stretching generally from El Paso southeastward along the Rio Grande Valley, past Big Bend National Park and farther southeastward into Mexico. Also, repeated appearances of apparently similar lights have been reported worldwide. Some of these emerge, and then seem to fade over time, and finally disappear. Others persist over many years. Undoubtedly the most renowned among the latter are the Hessdalen lights, of Hessdalen, Norway. A similar, less well recognized, persistent phenomenon are the Min Min lights of northeastern Australia, and a number of other like cases are known such as the Paulding Light near Watersmeet, Michigan. In the Gurdon, Arkansas, area, there is a single light there that has bizarre properties. It has been featured in local media nearly every Halloween and on the show Unsolved Mysteries. This is called the Gurdon Light.
Critics, challenging this account, note that the designated "viewing area" is located at the site of Marfa Army Airfield, where tens of thousands of personnel were stationed between 1942 and 1947, training American and Allied pilots. This massive field was then used for years as a regional airport, with daily airline service. Between Marfa AAF and its satellite fields -- each constantly patrolled by sentries -- they consider it unlikely that any actual phenomena would have remained unobserved and unmentioned.
A number of projects carried out by nonresident investigators over several decades have generally confirmed the appearance of the anomalous lights often with photographic and video evidence. Many suggestions have been offered to explain the reported observations, but no consensus has been reached.
The dominant skeptical explanation seems to be that the lights are a sort of mirage caused by sharp temperature gradients between cold and warm layers of air. Marfa is located at an altitude of 4,688 feet (1,429 m) above sea level, and temperature differentials of 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit (around 30 degrees Celsius) between high and low temperature are quite common. Proponents of this explanation reject the close-range accounts of the phenomenon, which they regard as invariably anecdotal.
Some contend that the lights are the result of a naturally occurring phenomenon, the piezoelectric effect, discovered by Pierre Curie in 1883. In this case, critics contend that the mountainous region is made up of mostly rocks containing quartz that expand during the day and contract at night, due to thermal expansion. This expansion and contraction creates stress on the quartz crystals which in turn is converted into voltage that is accumulated over time until it is then discharged into the atmosphere creating a ball lightning effect.
Other critics attribute Marfa Lights to automobile lights on Highway 67. The four night effort by UT Dallas students (see SPS study below) focused on automobile lights and reached a conclusion that vehicle lights can be seen from the View Park. The Aerial Hyperspectral and Reflection Study (see below) also focused for one night on reflected vehicle lights on Highway 67. These studies make the case that car lights can be seen from the View Park and they do look mysterious to many View Park visitors but longer term studies with multiple monitoring stations saving nightly videos have shown that the core source of Marfa Lights reports may be some type of natural light phenomena that appears as infrequently as 10 to 15 times a year (readers are referred to www.nightorbs.net for photographs and information regarding non-automobile and non-mirage mystery lights collected since 2001). On the other hand, it is easily shown that automobile headlights are very visible over great distances, and many Marfa Lights observations can be dismissed as auto headlights.
The complete lack of reports from the tens of thousands of potential observers at Marfa AAF and satellite fields is in keeping with theories that attribute the lights toward man-made light sources. During World War II, there were significantly fewer potential fixed sources (such as ranch lights) and very few vehicles driving at night.
They came to the conclusion that all of the lights observed over a four night period southwest of the view park could be reliably attributed to automobile headlights traveling along U.S. 67 between Marfa and Presidio, TX.
Other researchers with longer running studies have photographed mysterious lights south and southeast of the view park (ref: (1) www.nightorbs.net; (2) Night Orbs book by James Bunnell, Lacey Publishing Company, 2003; (3) Marfa Lights Video, www.filmbaby.com).
Marfa is located at .
The "Marfa Lights" label within this image shows where car lights (not Marfa Lights) can be seen on Highway 67. Marfa Lights are typically seen west, south and southeast of the View Park instead of southwest as shown in this image. See www.nightorbs.net for additional information.