Luxor Sky Beam: A look inside the Las Vegas icon

Mysteries

The Luxor Sky Beam uses intense light from $1,200 xenon lamps, focused into a column that is visible from hundreds of miles away. Since this report aired, the beam has been dimmed. In 2008, the Luxor began using about half of the 39 lamps each night. Originally aired July 11, 2001, on KLAS TV in Las Vegas. First of 2 Parts.

MYSTERY WIRE — The Luxor Sky Beam is the highest profile symbol in this high profile town. No matter where you are in the Las Vegas valley, the light is a fixture, even a source of comfort.

John Lichtsteiner, technical manager at the Luxor, describes some of the reactions.

“We get other comments like, ‘You know, no matter where I go in Las Vegas, if I can see the Luxor beam I know I’m all right.’ And other comments, ‘You know, even if I get lost in Las Vegas, look for the beam, I can find my way home.’ “

Luxor Sky Beam
Lightning strikes in the mountains with the Luxor Sky Beam in the foreground. (KLAS-TV)

There are no elevators to the top of the Luxor pyramid, and the few people who ever visit the pinnacle get there by climbing a steep series of long ladders. The first thing you learn at the top is there is no giant light bulb. Instead, 39 individual lamps housed in dark sturdy reflectors that sprout from the floor like a forest combine to create the light. You won’t find these on sale at Walmart.


Luxor Sky Beam

TWO PARTS:

  1. Luxor Sky Beam: A look inside the Las Vegas icon
  2. Swarming bugs transform Luxor Sky Beam into ‘sparkly lights going up into heaven’

“We buy these from Xenotech out of California,” Lichtsteiner says.

Each xenon lamp costs about $1,200 and will last 2,000 hours, working more like a welder’s arc than a light bulb. And how much light do they generate when humming along together?

Luxor Sky Beam John Lichtsteiner
John Lichtsteiner, technical manager at the Luxor, examines a $1,200 xenon lamp. (KLAS-TV)

“We estimate we’re at 40 billion candlepower,” Lichtsteiner says. “Yeah, so for the whole thing, okay, and each lamp is a 7,000 watt lamp, so you’re gonna get about a billion candlepower per lamp.”

It might seem excessive in these times of tight energy supplies but Luxor has gone to great lengths to make the system more efficient. Operating hours are now limited and more advanced equipment has been installed. But still, the electric bill for this contraption is a bit higher than yours at home.


UPDATE: Since 2008, the Luxor uses only about half of the lamps nightly


“It’s $51 an hour and $20 of that we figure is electricity,” Lichtsteiner says.

It gets pretty hot in the lamp room even without the light turned on — 136 degrees on the day of our visit. But if it’s heat you want, try climbing that final ladder into the very top of the pyramid where it’s another 20 degrees hotter due to the glass walls.

Reporter George Knapp was invited to the top to see the view for himself.

“We didn’t argue when the staff cracked open a window. It isn’t every day you get up at the top of the Luxor and they open up a window for you,” he said.

“So you want to take advantage of the opportunity. I’m tempted to maybe throw out some laundry, you know, to see if it’ll dry or maybe slide all the way down on my butt or something else. I’m told the Luxor people don’t want me to do any of that.”

The real show begins just after sundown when the system automatically kicks in. First with warning noises and flashes, then with the whole shebang. And once those lights are on, all sorts of company comes calling. All sorts.


NEXT STORY: Swarming bugs transform Luxor Sky Beam into ‘sparkly lights going up into heaven’

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Luxor Sky Beam: A look inside the Las Vegas icon - Part 1

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