McDonald Observatory, all the Reason You Need to Visit West Texas
Located in the Davis Mountains near Fort Davis, the McDonald Observatory sits high on the top of a mountain. It is part of the University of Texas at Austin, a mere 450 miles away.
For miles around, the observatory is the only thing you see. It is in a most desolate spot.
It is well worth the time to go to this secluded place because you will be treated to a fascinating, awe inspiring time.
If you can't spend a full day at the observatory, schedule your time for the Star Party held on Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday nights. It starts in an amphitheater down a dark path. Visitors are asked not to use cell phones or tablets because our eyes need time to adjust to the darkness. Please be courteous to the other visitors and refrain from using technology.
After a brief lecture explaining what you will see, and the coolest laser pointer ever -- it is used to point out areas of the night sky, you will be released to view the sky through some of those magnificent telescopes.
Through the telescopes, we saw Mars, the rings of Saturn, Jupiter; and with the naked eye, we could easily see the Milky Way. Staff are at each of the telescopes to explain what you are seeing and to make sure you can see it. They are most patient, refocusing the lens until you see what you are supposed to see.
It was definitely worth our time, and we took advantage of all of the programs that were offered. If you can do only one, the Star Party is the one we most strongly recommend.
Prices and more information can be found at the McDonald Observatory website. Reservations, even weeks or months in advance, are suggested. When we were there both the twilight program and the Star Party were sold out for Friday and Saturday.
Due to the total solar eclipse during August of 2017, some programs will be limited to allow the staff to travel to prime viewing spots for the eclipse.