Las Vegas’ Real-Life Bat Signal

Pictured above is the Luxor Las Vegas casino and hotel. As you can plainly see, it is designed to resemble ancient Egypt, with a replica Sphinx standing guard in front of a literal pyramid. Even the name is a reference to Egypt; Luxor is the name of a city in Egypt, believed to be one of (if not the) oldest continually habited cities on the planet.

This Luxor, though, isn’t nearly as old, having only been built in 1993. But, pandemic restrictions aside, it’s been in continual operation since, welcoming thousands and thousands of guests each year. And that doesn’t include the creepy ones that only show up at night.

No, not drunk gamblers; they’re counted. I’m talking about the things that appear in the beam of light seen below.

See the glowing triangle? That’s the top of the Luxor pyramid at night. And the beam of light emanating from that is the Luxor Sky Beam. It’s an incredibly right light — the Sky Beam is powered by 39 xenon gas lamps, each of which have a 7,000 watt output. And when conditions are right, you may get to see a lot of UFOs flying in the beam. Here’s a video of some guy — a three-year Vegas resident, per his own narration — totally baffled by the hundreds of dots floating in the Sky Beam. (The image above is a screenshot from that video.)

It’s not aliens, though. Most likely, those are bats, and maybe some owls and birds, too. And like a lot of visitors to the casino inside, the bats are there for the all-you-can-eat buffet. 

The Luxor Sky Beam, it turns out, doesn’t only attract the attention of tourists — it also attracts a lot of moths. The Las Vegas Review-Journal explains:

When the light was first turned on in 1993, no one imagined it would become the world’s largest bug attractor. But it did. Soon after it debuted, moths flocked to the Luxor Sky Beam like, well, moths to a flame. You can see them on almost any night, flitting around in the beam.

The light technicians soon learned that, where there are moths, there are bats. They came to feast on the moths. Then the owls showed up. Apparently, bats make for a nice meal, too.

And really, there are a lot of moths there. Here’s a screenshot from another video, and if it looks like the static from an old TV getting poor receptions, well, it’s not. Those white dots are, most likely, moths.

You won’t see many bigger white specs at that point in the beam because it’s too close to the very hot lamps for larger creatures. But some nights, the column of moths extends much higher, allowing larger flying animals to swoop in for a snack. (Here’s the video that the screen cap is from; at about 1:19, you can some birds very clearly.)

To a person standing outside, though, the moths are too small to see from such a distance, and the bats and birds and owls appear to be hovering, inexplicably, in the light column. There’s no alien life in there, for better or for worse, but there is a unique Las Vegas ecosystem in that small section of the sky.

Bonus fact: The Sky Beam has an added, unintended feature: pilots can use it to figure out which way is which. As the Telegraph notes, “on a clear night, the Sky Beam, which has shone continuously into the Nevada sky since 1993, is visible from 275 miles away by aircraft at cruising altitude, such as over Los Angeles, a five-hour drive away.” As a result, the Federal Aviation Administration allows it to be used as a navigational marker. (If you search this pdf for “Luxor,” you’ll see it used as an example in a couple of places.)

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