Visibility of the Orfordness lighthouse
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1: Lighthouse from the forest edge

A super-telephoto view of the top of the Orfordness lighthouse peeking through a notch between trees on the skyline, as seen from the eastern edge of Rendlesham Forest where the flashing UFO was sighted. Shielding on the lighthouse windows blocked the light from the town of Orford (to the left in this picture), but there was an almost direct line of sight from the lamp towards the forest. This picture was taken from near the supposed UFO ‘landing site’ on 2006 December 9 by Tony Nelson of Wickham Market, who kindly sent it to me for use on this website. The lighthouse tower is 30m high, and the intervening ridge has a maximum height of 19m (OS spot height). For more about the notch through which the top of the lighthouse is visible, see Image 4 below.
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2a: A view from Orford Ness

The lighthouse photographed by me on Orford Ness on 2013 August 28. Comparison with View 1 at the top of the page shows that the viewing azimuth is identical. Through the windows, the outline of one of the three giant rotating Fresnel lenses that focused the beam can be seen. The radio transmitting mast visible at top left of the tower on View 1 had been taken down when I took this, as the lighthouse was by then no longer operating. The glazing on the lantern room is 3m high.
2b: Lighthouse and the Black Beacon

The line of sight from the Orfordness lighthouse to the forest edge runs just north of another famous Orford Ness landmark, the Black Beacon. The wide-angle view below was taken by me from the same spot as the telephoto shot (View 2a) above. The Black Beacon, a former radio transmitting tower, is about one-third the height of the lighthouse.
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3: Lighthouse from the Orford side

The Orfordness lighthouse as seen from the side facing the town of Orford. The diamond-shaped window panes of the lantern room are filled in on this side to prevent the light shining directly into the town. However, the shield is notched and only three of the panes are filled in at the centre. In practice, the light still shone inland towards Rendlesham Forest, off to the right. See this short video by Adrian Frearson demonstrating the position of the blanked-off arc relative to the town and forest.

At the time of the Rendlesham Forest UFO sighting, Orfordness lighthouse was one of the brightest in the country, with an intensity of 5 million candelas. For technical data on the light, see here.

As View 1 at the top of the page demonstrates, the Orfordness lighthouse is visible from the forest edge only through a notch between two stands of trees on the skyline. These trees are in fact on rising ground to the east of the Butley River. I have marked this Notch on the satellite view below. The eastern edge of Rendlesham Forest is about 3.5 km to the west, and the lighthouse about 4.5 km to the east. The lighthouse can be seen through the Notch from only a very limited area near the forest edge. This just happens to be the area in which the US airmen were standing when they reported seeing their flashing UFO almost in line with the farmhouse across the field to the east of them.
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PS: Goodbye to the Orfordness lighthouse

The Orfordness lighthouse was turned off permanently at the end of June 2013 and will be allowed to fall victim to coastal erosion. No more can it be seen flashing every five seconds across the farmer’s field at the edge of Rendlesham Forest, just where the US airmen reported seeing their flashing UFO back at Christmas 1980.
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