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McDonald Observatory hosts open house

McDonald Observatory hosts open house
Courtesy McDonald Observatory
Friday, April 18, 2014 - 8:57am

The McDonald Observatory, nestled in the Davis Mountains, just outside of Fort Davis, TX will be hossting an open house on April 26, 2014 and they're inviting you! All programs offered throughout the afternoon are free to the public and include daytime and evening viewnig through telescopes, tours, science talks by UT researchers and other activities.

Some of the programs being offered by McDonald Observatory can be reserved before your trip in order to secure your seat. For more information, or to make reservations, please visit

Science Talks

Enjoy science talks presented on a popular level by astronomy researchers at the University of Texas at Austin. These talks will take place in the theater inside the Visitors Center. Reservations required.

2:00 P.M. - The W. J. McDonald Observatory: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, by McDonald Director Dr. David L. Lambert
3:00 P.M. - Hunting for Alien Worlds, by Dr. Fritz Benedict
4:00 P.M. - Dark Energy and the Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment (HETDEX), by Dr. Niv Drory


107-inch Harlan J. Smith Telescope
362-inch Hobby-Eberly Telescope
2:00 PM - 5:30 P.M
. - See the largest research telescopes at McDonald Observatory at your own pace. The 107" Harlan J. Smith telescope and the 362" Hobby-Eberly telescope galleries on Mount Locke and Mount Fowlkes will be open for self-guided tours. These programs require no reservations. Due to its location on the fifth floor (70 steps from the ground floor) of the building, visiting the 107" telescope will require moderate physical agility; however, self guided tours of the Hobby-Eberly telescope involve no stairs. No reservations needed.

82-inch Otto Struve Telescope
3:45 P.M. - 8:30 P.M.
- A brief tour of the 82-inch Otto Struve Telescope. Not normally open for public tours, the "Grand Old Lady" is the favorite telescope of many staffers at McDonald Observatory. When standing under the telescope, one can't help but feel a sense of history - both from the art deco era in which it was constructed and the many decades of discovery and accomplishment this instrument made possible. These guided tours will depart via shuttle from the Visitors Center. (Program will require climbing two flights of steps at ~ 6800 feet elevation.) Weather permitting, the tour will also include views of Jupiter. Reservations required.

Twilight Program

8:00 P.M. - Saturn's Rings Twilight Program. Reservations required.

Telescope Viewings

2:00 P.M. - 6:30 P.M. - Solar Viewing will be held in the courtyard outside the Frank N. Bash Visitors Center. This program requires no reservations, and will provide you a safe view of sunspots and other features on our nearest star, the Sun. No reservations needed.

8:00 P.M. - 11:15 P.M. - Join us for an evening viewing though the many telescopes at the Visitors Center's telescope park. The telescopes range in size up to 24". Viewing will begin before sunset with views of Jupiter and Mars. After the sky darkens a bit we'll also view various star clusters, nebulae, and distant galaxies and, before the end of the evening, Saturn! Reservations encouraged.

9:15 P.M. - 11:15 P.M. - Views of Mars through our original research telescope, the Otto Struve 82" telescope (weather permitting). This was the second largest telescope in the world when it was dedicated in 1939, and it turns 75 this year. Shuttles depart from the Visitors Center. (Program will require climbing two flights of steps at ~ 6800 feet elevation at night.) Reservations required.

Constellation Tours

9:30 & 10:30 P.M. - Take a guided tour of the night sky with a knowledgeable guide pointing the way. The program will be offered twice .. at 9:30 P.M. and again at 10:30 P.M. Telescope viewing will be occuring before, during, and after these programs so you won't miss out on anything by taking in either of the approximately 1/2 hour programs. But, you will miss out if you don't join one of these interesting programs. Reservations encouraged.

Other Activities

For the kids and young at heart, we will also have balloons and face painting by UT researcher Dr. Judit Gyorgyey Ries from 2:00 P.M.-5:30 P.M., an exhibit of 75th anniversary-themed art from local school children, and McDonald Observatory fire truck demonstrations and free hot dogs presented by the observatory's safety and security staff from 2:00 P.M.-6:00 P.M. These activities require no reservations.

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