Have you seen the mysterious Marfa lights? You’ve probably heard of the synchronous fireflies that live in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
They attract so many visitors to the park that the National Park Service is holding a contest to see the spectacular synchronized light show.
Although the fireflies seem miraculous, science can explain the flashing light patterns. For the lights of Marfa in southwest Texas, however, there seems to be no explanation and no reason. This light show occurs at all times of the year and at all hours of the day.
Learn more about the lights of Marfa and how you can see them like we do!
Where is Marfa, Texas located?
Located in Big Bend Country, Marfa is the county seat of Presidio County. It is located at the intersection of US Highways 90 and 67, south of Fort Davis in southwest Texas.
There are also three mountain ranges in the region. The Davis Mountains are to the north, the Chisos Mountains are to the southeast, and the Chinati Mountains are to the southwest.
It is a beautiful area in what is left of the frontier.
What are the Marfa lights?
Marfa, Texas, is best known for the Marfa Lights, which can be seen on the shoulder of Highway 90, about 9 miles east of Marfa.
These ghost lights are mysterious balls of light that appear suddenly and go up and down in a pulsating fashion. Sometimes they dart across the desert vegetation instead of stopping.
The unexplained phenomenon attracts people from all over the world. Reports began in the 19th century and continue to this day as visitors and residents have observed different colors and random appearances.
What are possible explanations for the lights of Marfa?
Not everyone believes that the Marfa lights are mysterious, unexplained events. Many scientists believe the lights come from the headlights of vehicles on nearby US Highway 67.
Others explain that the Marfa lights are just an optical illusion caused by refraction of light due to layers of air at different temperatures.
Retired aerospace engineer James Bunnell has a different theory. He states that “the Marfa lights are the result of igneous rock under Mitchell Flat producing a piezoelectric charge.”
This means that the intense pressure of solid matter can generate electricity that creates these sparks of light.
Anyway, there is no clear answer to the question of what the lights of Marfa are.
When was the first recorded sighting?
In 1883, Robert Ellison, a cowherd, was driving his cattle over Paisana Pass and noticed a strange flicker. He thought it might be a campfire, but upon investigation found no evidence of ash or a campfire.
Two years later, in 1885, Joe and Anne Humphreys reported seeing the lights of Marfa. Their report is found in Cecilia Thompson’s book, History of Marfa and Presidio County, Texas 1535-1946.
In 1957, the first published account of the Marfa light appeared in Coronet magazine.
The Marfa Lights have been shown in numerous television programs, and this phenomenon has also inspired songwriters.
“Unsolved Mysteries,” “King of the Hill,” and Disney’s “So Weird” have all mentioned the lights. In a 2019 Simpsons episode, a family visited Marfa, and Lisa tried to explain the phenomenon.
In addition, the Rolling Stones mention the “Lights of Marfa” in “No Spare Parts”, and country musician Paul Cauthen wrote “Marfa Lights” for his 2016 album.