March 4, 2020

Fort Davis, West Texas: McDonald Observatory; things to do

McDonald Observatory  

16 miles NW of town, (877) 984-7827, (432) 426-3640.  Visitor Center and cafe:  daily 10am-5:30.  Tours daily at 11am & 2pm.  

Star parties on Tu, F, Sat evenings.  Programs $5-$15, under 5 free.  Reservations required.  No pets.

McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, Texas
McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, Texas;
image by Ethan Tweedie Photography, courtesy of venue

One of the world’s premiere observatories, this renowned University of Texas at Austin astronomical facility offers daytime tours and spectacular star parties at night.  This area of Texas features some of the darkest night skies in the nation (this area is classified as a “Class 1 Dark Sky”--as dark as it gets), permitting clear views of the stars and planets.  After the seated portion of the outdoor star party in a amphitheater, visitors move to another area to view the night skies through several McDonald Observatory telescopes, including the technologically advanced Hobby-Eberly telescope, where people will be asking things like, “Is this the right line for Saturn?”  Note that it can get quite cold up on Mt. Locke and Mt Fowlkes, so dress warmly.  One generous lady in my group of four treated us all to ponchos, neck scarfs, beanies, and even gloves--all purchased at a nearby dollar store.  Star Parties always occur outside--even if it rains.  But if it's too cloudy, rainy, windy, dusty, or humid, an indoor program is substituted.

ladies dressed for a star party at McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, Texas
ladies dressed for a star party at McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, Texas

second image, photographer unknown

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