The W.L. Moody Visitors Information Center opened in 1982. For two decades, it served thousands of visitors to McDonald Observatory.
The 12,000-square-foot Frank N. Bash Visitors Center opened. Originally called the Texas Astronomy Education Center, it features an interactive exhibit, 90-seat theater, cafe, gift shop, and outdoor telescope park and amphitheater. It was later renamed the Frank N. Bash Visitors Center for the the former director of McDonald Observatory.
McDonald Obervatory's StarDate radio program debuted on the nation's airwaves, initially funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. Today, StarDate is the longest running, nationally syndicated science show on radio. It currently airs on more than 300 stations. More information is available at StarDate Online.
After receiving the donation of Mount Locke (previously called Flat Top) as the site for the new observatory, planners thought they should acquire the nearby smaller mountain (Little Flat Top) for possible future expansion. They received the donation from the estate of Fort Davis Judge Edwin H. Fowlkes, for whom the mountain was re-named. Decades later, the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (one of the world's largest optical telescopes) was built atop Mount Fowlkes.
Mrs. Violet Locke McIvor donated the mountain upon which now sit most of McDonald Observatory's telescopes. Previously called "Flat Top" or "U Up and Down Mountain" (for the ranch in which it sat), it was renamed Mount Locke in honor of Mrs. McIvor's grandfather. Dr. G.S. Locke of Concord, New Hampshire, was the founder of the ranch.
When The University of Texas at Austin received W.J. McDonald's bequest for building an observatory, it had no astronomy department. The University of Texas entered into an a agreement with the University of Chicago, which had many fine astronomers and its own Yerkes Observatory. The deal allowed for the University of Chicago to operate McDonald Observatory for 30 years.