What Are the Marfa Lights?

Quck answer

The Marfa Lights are unexplained phenomena observed in the night sky near Marfa, Texas. These lights appear as bright orbs or floating balls of light that move in various directions. They have been witnessed by numerous people, including scientists and locals, for over a century. Despite extensive research and speculations, the origin of these lights remains a mystery. Some theories suggest they are caused by atmospheric gases, while others propose supernatural or extraterrestrial explanations. The Marfa Lights continue to intrigue and fascinate both scientists and enthusiasts, making them a popular tourist attraction in the area.

Imagine you’re on a scenic drive through the desert with your family. Prickly cacti, twisted trees, and howling coyotes pass by along the road. It’s late, and you feel like you’re falling asleep when—what’s that? Do you see them? Right there! A few floating balls of light, far out in the desert.

You blink a few times and rub your eyes. What did you just witness? Did you doze off without realizing it? Is your imagination playing tricks on you? Are you so exhausted that you’re hallucinating? Not at all! No, you just caught a glimpse of the Marfa Lights.

In the western part of Texas, the small town of Marfa attracts thousands of visitors every year. They come to witness the unexplained phenomenon that occurs just on the outskirts of the town. At night, if you gaze into the desert on the eastern side of the town, you might observe orbs of light in shades of yellow, white, or red appear out of nowhere.

What are they? The truth is, no one really knows. The Marfa Lights have been a puzzle for many years. The earliest written record of the lights dates back to 1945. However, they were seen even before that. People have been discussing the lights since at least the late 19th century.

Some individuals believe the lights have a supernatural origin. There are tales of Apache Chief Alaste haunting the Chinati Mountains near Marfa, and many believe the lights are the spirit of the chief wandering through the desert.

Others think the lights could be of extraterrestrial origin. Are the lights emitted by low-flying UFOs? Perhaps they are signals from aliens attempting to communicate with nearby individuals?

No one can provide a definitive answer. That’s because, at present, there is no definite explanation for the lights. However, there are a few scientific hypotheses. Some people suggest that the lights could be a mirage. In that case, the lights wouldn’t actually exist—they would just be an optical illusion that has deceived thousands.

Other potential scientific explanations include natural gas and electricity. Some individuals believe the orbs may be pockets of gas that caught fire, similar to swamp gas. Others speculate that they must be electric charges, similar to the lightning that produces St. Elmo’s Fire.

One group of scientists believed they had unraveled the mystery. After studying the lights, they claimed that the lights were caused by headlights of automobiles on a highway 20 miles away. They argued that the lights appeared to bounce and change colors because of the distance.

However, most Marfans—residents of Marfa—remain unconvinced by the headlight explanation. After all, early sightings of the Marfa Lights occurred in the 19th century, long before automobiles were common in the area. And can headlights really be seen from such a distance?

Could the Marfa Lights be ghosts? Aliens? A mirage? Electricity? Gas? Headlights? We may never know for certain—and many prefer it that way. After all, for many people, the allure of an unsolved mystery is just that—it remains unsolved!

Try It Out

Are you ready to unravel the mystery of the Marfa Lights? Find an adult friend or family member to assist you with these activities.

  • Take a look at this gallery to discover more about Marfa and even witness the lights yourself. Then, imagine that a friend or family member has asked you about the Marfa Lights. Compose an email or letter to them explaining the three most fascinating facts you have learned about the lights.
  • Which explanation for the Marfa Lights seems most logical to you? Do you have your own theory? What could be causing these flickering balls of light in western Texas? Discuss your thoughts with a friend or family member.
  • One theory regarding the Marfa Lights suggests that they are generated by electricity, similar to St. Elmo’s Fire. Read further about St. Elmo’s Fire and then create a visual representation of what you believe it would appear like in reality. Share your artwork with a friend or family member and elaborate on the concept of St. Elmo’s Fire to them.

References to Explore

  • https://www.livescience.com/37579-what-are-marfa-lights-texas.html (accessed 24 Sept. 2019)
  • https://science.howstuffworks.com/science-vs-myth/unexplained-phenomena/what-are-mysterious-marfa-lights.htm (accessed 24 Sept. 2019)
  • https://www.texasmonthly.com/articles/the-truth-is-out-there/ (accessed 24 Sept. 2019)
  • https://www.wideopencountry.com/really-deal-marfa-lights/ (accessed 24 Sept. 2019)


1. What are the Marfa Lights?

The Marfa Lights are unexplained phenomena that have been observed near the town of Marfa, Texas. These lights appear as floating orbs or flickering lights in the desert sky. They have been a mystery for many years, with various theories attempting to explain their origin.

2. Where can the Marfa Lights be seen?

The Marfa Lights can be seen in the area known as the “Marfa Mystery Lights Viewing Area,” located about nine miles east of Marfa. This is a popular spot for visitors and researchers to observe the lights. They usually appear after sunset and can be seen from a distance.

3. How long have the Marfa Lights been observed?

The Marfa Lights have been observed for over a century. The first recorded sighting dates back to the late 19th century, with reports of the lights appearing as early as the 1880s. Since then, countless people have witnessed these mysterious lights and tried to unravel their secrets.

4. What causes the Marfa Lights?

The exact cause of the Marfa Lights remains unknown. There are several theories, including the possibility of atmospheric conditions, natural gas emissions, or even supernatural explanations. However, none of these theories have been proven conclusively, leaving the origin of the lights still a mystery.

5. Can the Marfa Lights be explained scientifically?

While there have been many scientific investigations into the Marfa Lights, no definitive explanation has been found. Some researchers believe the lights could be a result of atmospheric phenomena, such as temperature inversions or mirages. However, these theories have not been able to fully explain the characteristics and behavior of the lights.

6. Are there any other places in the world with similar phenomena?

Yes, there are other places in the world where similar unexplained lights have been observed. For example, the Hessdalen Lights in Norway and the Brown Mountain Lights in North Carolina are two well-known examples. These phenomena share similarities with the Marfa Lights, but their exact causes are also unknown.

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