Saturday, December 29, 2012

Visiting McDonald Observatory

A winter view of the Davis Mountains from the top of McDonald Observatory, north of Fort Davis.

Our region's skies are among the darkest you'll find anywhere...we're a perfect place to see the night sky and enjoy the stars and planets.  Many travelers to the region plan to attend a STAR PARTY.  We agree, this is a highlight of many trips out to the mountains...our tip?  Regardless of season, wear a hat and warm clothing.  At the Observatory's high altitude, it gets cold after dark, even in the summer!
Want to get up to speed on what you can see in the night sky?  Take a look at the Observatory's Stardate website, click here!
Click here to get to the Observatory's Visitor Center website, including links to schedule notes for Spring Break 2013.  Click here for the Observatory's FAQ page.
From the historic site marker at the top of the Observatory complex:
"Original unit in complex forming one of the greatest observatory centers in the world.  Built in teh 1930s under terms of legacy from William Johnson McDonald (1844-1926).  A Paris (Texas) banker interested in the stars. A well-educated man, McDonald lived frugally.  As a hobby, he read science books and viewed planets through a small telescope.  His will granted to the Universityy of Texas $800,000 "to build an observatory and promote the study of Astronomy." 
"This site was selected because of its high ratio of clear nights, its 6,800 foot altitude, its distance from artificially-lighted cities, and its quite low altitude which permits the observation of southern skies."
"The Observatory was operated for its first 25 years mainly by astronomers from the University of Chicago, more recently primarily from the University of Texas.  Until 1948, its 82-inch telescope was the second-largest in the world.  Its fine work and site has resulted in the addition of other telescopes, including a 107-inch instrument sponsored jointly by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation and the University of Texas."
"Discoveries here have included interstellar polarization and the satellites of several planets. (1968)

Now you can JOIN the Texas Mountain Trail (a 501 c 3 non-profit organization) and get advance notice of special events and opportunities in the Far West Texas region.  Click HERE!

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