“Gazing into the stars”
McDonald Observatory, a research unit of The University of Texas at Austin, is one of the world's leading centers for astronomical research, teaching, and public education and outreach. Observatory facilities are located atop Mount Locke and Mount Fowlkes in the Davis Mountains of West Texas, which offer some of the darkest night skies in the continental United States. The Observatory's administrative offices are on the UT-Austin campus. The Observatory works with the University's Department of Astronomy on both research and teaching. With its 9.2-meter (362-inch) mirror, the HET is one of the world's largest optical telescopes. It's optimized for spectroscopy, the decoding of light from stars and galaxies to study their properties. This makes it ideal for searching for planets around other stars, and studying distant galaxies, exploding stars, black holes, and more. The HET, dedicated in 1997, is a joint project of The University of Texas at Austin, The Pennsylvania State University, Stanford University, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, and Georg-August-Universität Göttingen.
Info on events, tours, etc.
We did the tour of the telescope, the solar event, twilight event and the star party. Bring blankets for the star party it was cold, but overall a wonderful day/ evening. Reserve ahead online. Very informative!
Check the weather carefully before going.
Be sure to go in the evening. The star-parties are a must!
This was very different than I expected. We went to a star party and walked around in pitch black red lit paths. There were nine telescopes to look through. This location is so remote in the mountains that the dark sky was filling up more and more with stars every time I looked up. Truly beautiful. This isn’t the place to take pictures as any lights being out at the star party are not permitted. This was a fun unique experience. I rated four stars because I expected the scopes to be so much clearer (some slightly better than the naked eye) but our guide and the experience were worth it.
If you are in the Davis Mountains, be sure to check this place out, especially if you have kids or just love astronomy. If you get a chance, go to a star party. The presenter is very knowledgeable and you learn how to navigate your way across the night sky. Some of the college students set up telescopes after the main presentation for visitors to see night sky objects like Saturn, galaxies, nebulae and star clusters. Make sure you bring a jacket, it gets chilly.
Definitely worth the trip to Fort Davis just for this. The star party was awesome! Very cool, I've never seen the milky way so clearly. They had telescopes set up to see Saturn, a nebula, a few different star clusters, and the moon. What an amazing night. Even in the middle of summer, take a sweatshirt for the evening events, the mountain air cools significantly at night.
We signed up for a star party on a cloudy night. We knew this but we didn't have time to wait for the weather to come around. It was still really neat. It isn't every day that you get to look through big telescopes.
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- Sun - Sat: 10:00 am - 5:30 pm
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