VALIDITY OF EARTHLIGHT THEORIES: MARFA TEXAS
The "Marfa Lights"
Many theories for Earthlights have been offered,
ranging from highly sophisticated physics to the ridiculous. For instance,
Stanford Linear Accelerator physicist Dr. David Fryberger suggests that a sub
atomic particle called a “vorton” may be involved in the production of
Earthlights.1 Some scientists think Earthlights are a form of
ball lightning, others have proposed they are related to piezoelectric effects
of tectonic strain, ignited swamp gas, various forms of mirages caused by
weather conditions, stars, planets, and car headlights. Among the more extreme
explanations, are glowing bunnies that have run through phosphorescent mineral
deposits. The superstitious believe they are souls or ghosts of Indians,
railroad workers, or even the devil. How valid are these theories and beliefs?
How do we evaluate their validity?
Although there has been some scientific effort to solve the Earthlight mystery,
the most vocal, and visible, participants of the Earthlight debate seem to be
polarized between superstition and skepticism. The superstitious wish the
phenomena to remain a mystery, while
skeptics seem invested in proving the phenomena do not exist at all. These
approaches are both founded on a priori opinions, trying to fit facts
into preconceived notions or beliefs. This is not a good way to determine the
truth. How can we see through the fog and determine if a theory is likely
correct, and test the logic of a skeptic’s preconceived ideas?
Using a well known Earthlight area, Marfa, Texas, as an example may provide some
“enlightenment” to the determination. People from all over the world come
to view the lights at a specially-built viewing area. Local folklore says the
lights are the ghost of an executed Indian Chief. Many residents of the Marfa
area are superstitious about the lights. Some professors at the local Sul Ross
University have attempted study and do triangulations of the lights with mixed
results. Rumor has it local academicians are reluctant to discuss their findings
for fear of ridicule from their peers. It is most unfortunate that peer pressure
and vocal skeptics are capable of intimidating researchers to conceal the few
serious efforts and their results.
IEA proposes that lights at well known Earthlight areas are likely to be a
mixture of manmade, natural artifact, and genuine Earthlights. For example at
Marfa, Texas, it is likely that many of the lights witnessed at the Marfa
viewing area are car headlights descending the Chinati mountain summit on
Highway 67. Because the mountain cannot be seen at night in the darkness, the
car headlights appear to be suspended in mid-air, blinking off and on, moving,
and disappearing. Actually, close examination of videos taken by IEA researchers
Example), shows a distinct pattern of the light
movements. The blinking and disappearing of the lights are caused by cars
traveling over twists and dips in the highway momentarily pointing their
headlights at, or sweeping their headlights past, the Marfa Lights viewing area
25 miles away. But wait! It is a mistake to claim that car headlights are “the
only” explanation for the Marfa Lights. They explain some of the observations
but not all.
Some skeptics mistakenly claim that because a valid explanation exists for some
of the observations, that it explains all of the observations. Skeptics have
ignored other compelling facts such as that the lights appear in areas other
than along highway 67. Lights appear in the sky and low on the ground in all
directions, and there have been many close up eyewitness encounters including
some lights following cars, light aircraft, and even military aircraft. Also
commonly overlooked is the fact that reports of lights in the Marfa area date
back hundreds of years, long before the automobile or even electricity was
invented. Legends date back to Native
American lore, surveyors, and prospectors in the area. Some eyewitnesses
observed them at very close distances, reporting details such as dust-like
disintegrations directly overhead.
Additionally, many of the mechanisms offered for Earthlights simply do not make
sense considering a comprehensive overview of the data. Cars on a mountain road
do not explain brightly scintillating lights larger and brighter than stars,
seen and photographed above the horizon on rainy nights, or below the horizon,
close to the ground in directions where roads do not exist. Possibly, some of
these Marfa lights may be distant lights reflected from over the horizon.
Speculations have been made that the lights are nighttime Fata Morgana
(vertically elongated over the horizon image) or Novaya Zemlya mirages
(over the horizon images from as much as hundreds of miles away). Certainly,
inversion layer mirages and temperature gradient mirages may be a possible
explanation for some of the observations. The Marfa area may be subject to
weather conditions favorable for atmospheric anomalies that create such mirages.
However, these mirages usually have a narrow viewing angle of about a half
degree in width (about the size of the sun). In many but not all cases, lights
have been triangulated by widely separated observers. Most mirages are from
objects that are relatively close, located about a quarter mile to three miles
away. Marfa lights may appear on the ground at close range to observers and move
rapidly beyond speeds of which reflected cars or trains at this distance are
capable. In many cases, lights reveal their proximity by illuminating the ground
below them. Additionally, lights appear in weather conditions not conducive to
inversion layers such as rain and fog. Lights have even been reported in severe
Other possibly valid explanations have been offered such as stars and planets
mistaken for Earthlights. Such reports can easily be evaluated by consulting an
ephemeris or using astronomical software. Spectra can be compared. It is also
true that there are several ranch lights in the Marfa area (and other Earthlight
areas), and atmospheric aberrations may cause these manmade lights to
scintillate or sparkle. Airplanes are another source of confusion but they too
are usually easily identified. By law, airplanes must have blinking strobe
lights, port and starboard red and green wingtip lights as well as top and belly
lights that blink once per second setting them apart from the constantly glowing
objects in question. Airplanes are easy to identify in film and video images
though often the naked eye sees only brighter aircraft landing lights.
In order to study the Earthlight phenomenon it is mandatory to accurately
determine the likely cause of each light observation. Indeed, most of the
lights will be explained by one or more of the above theories, or explanations
for ordinary mechanisms. Although a combination of several of the theories above
may account for a large portion of the light observations at Marfa and
elsewhere, some unexplainable observations remain that are unaccounted for by
any of the ordinary explanations.
IEA’s task is to discriminate between artifact lights (manmade or natural) and
unexplained lights, then study the unexplained ones. On missions to Earthlight
locations, IEA scientists have documented lights that have not been
satisfactorily explained by proposed theories or known artifacts. Rather than
assert that known theories should explain all of the light appearances, IEA uses
theories in a different way. IEA uses theory to identify possible known causes
of light observations in order to cull genuine anomalies from the explainable.
By carefully categorizing each light observation true anomalies can be
identified. By researching the properties of the unidentified lights, new
discoveries may be made.
IEA has developed a detailed observation protocol for those of you who would
like to do your own earthlight research. The protocol is the result of several
years of experience (and some mistakes that we learned from). The protocol gives
information, guidelines, equipment needed, camera settings, checklists, and
suggestions for procedures to help insure that you will succeed in the complex
process of making valid earthlight observations. The protocol can be found in
the members only section. You need to be an IEA member to access the members
only area. Join now!