McDonald Observatory, Fort Davis
Categories: Observatories, Museums
One of the country's major astronomical research institutions, McDonald Observatory has four impressive telescopes. The largest--the 9.2 m (30 ft) Hobby-Eberly telescope--ranks amongst the largest in the world. Stop by the observatory visitor center to see the staff in action and learn more about their projects and programs, as well as the science of space. Join a guided tour for inside access, or even watch live telescopic images of the sun during a solar viewing session. Be sure to book ahead online, however, as tickets can sell out very quickly. Set at an elevation of 2,070 m (6,790 ft) in the mountains of West Texas, the observatory is part of the University of Texas at Austin, and works closely with its science departments. Using our online itinerary creator, Fort Davis attractions like McDonald Observatory can form part of a personalized travel itinerary.
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Unfortunately we could only do the self guided tour as we arrived too late for a guided tour. Very high up, as you would guess, so the views were impressive. There is a visitors centre and coffee shop... read more »
We are not astronomy buffs, but enjoy educational programs and this one was very nicely organized with speakers who are educators and good at what they do -- mainly make their areas of expertise simpl... read more »
Well, all I can say is AWESOME!!! This was on my bucket list and I finally was able to do it. The only problem was, that during the star party a storm rolled in and then there was no more stars! So th... read more »
#1-your GPS cannot find this address; Just head to Ft. Davis and follow the signs. We attended three separate events in one day here - a presentation and tour, the twilight event and a "star party" that didn't begin until 9:30 pm. The twilight event that started at 7:45 pm was informative, but what we really enjoyed was the 2pm tour (awesome to hear about, then see these huge telescopes, including the 3rd largest in the world). The late night "star party" was amazing - perfect conditions for star gazing with the naked eye and with a variety of telescopes. You can't see stars like this if you live in a city. Great experience.
Incredible! For being in the middle of nowhere, the star party was packed - and for good reason. It was a very interesting presentation involving an overview of the night sky via laser pointer and great story telling followed by a chance to see thru almost a dozen different manned telescope stations. My favorite part was looking through one telescope and seeing hundreds of stars. I asked where the telescope was pointed, and the astronomer used a laser to point to a spot in the night sky where I couldn't see a single star with the naked eye.
Such a great place to learn about space. I purchased the Daytime Pass, which includes the Solar Viewing Program and a guided tour of two telescope buildings. The Solar Viewing program includes a ~15 minute video about the history of McDonald Observatory, and then ~45 minute presentation. Dan Gordon was the presenter and gave an excellent talk, including a "live" (8 min. 20 sec. delay, the time it takes light to get from the Sun to the Earth!) viewing of the Sun with a telescope that he controlled remotely. We viewed live solar flares and sun spots and Dan talked about how the Sun works along with other space topics. The two telescopes on the tour were the 82 inch Otto Struve Telescope on Mt. Locke and the 360 inch Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) on Mt. Fowlkes. Tickets are not expensive, and you can save a dollar or so by buying them in advance online at the McDonald Observatory website. They recommend buying online during holidays and peak times because they shows sell out. Another show that they offer is a nighttime "Star Party", where they present a constellation tour, telescope viewing, and other presentations, though the program varies depending on weather conditions. I will check that one out during my next trip. Highly recommended!
Star party was amazing! Definitely order your tickets online as early as possible, they sell out. The people were very friendly, entertaining, and always willing to answer questions. Long lines to look through the telescopes, but worth it. Beautiful scenic drive up as well. On the way to do the sun viewing!
Long drive from Austin make sure to be in the area a few days if you are stargazing in the event of uncooperative weather. Big Bend is a couple hours away
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