Media Advisory: Westcave Preserve & McDonald Observatory Present Summer Solstice Events June 21

20 June 2003

EVENT: Westcave Preserve is holding a summer solstice celebration Saturday. McDonald Observatory’s Dan Lester will discuss the Preserve’s solar observatory, which he helped design. Visitors will view an image of the Sun safely produced by a telescope (weather permitting) -- allowing them to see sunspots on the solar surface. They will also experiment with the Preserve’s solar energy panel, enjoy guided tours of the Preserve, and other activities.


WHEN: 11a.m. - 3p.m., Saturday, June 21. The event is $4 for adults, $2 for children.

WHERE: Westcave Preserve, in the Texas Hill Country 30 miles west of Austin. Take Highway 71 west past the village of Bee Cave. Turn left on Hamilton Pool Road (RR 3238), and travel 14.5 miles. The Preserve entrance is the first right turn after crossing the Pedernales River. A map is available here.

BACKGROUND: At summer solstice, the longest day of the year, the Sun is highest in the sky in the northern hemisphere. The event has special meaning at Westcave Preserve’s Warren Skaaren Visitor Center. Their solar observatory, designed by architect Robert Jackson and McDonald Observatory astronomer Dan Lester, is a centerpiece of the facility.

This solar observatory is unique in the nation. It uses a spot of light from the Sun to follow the motion of the Sun across the sky. Visitors near "local noon," which is between 1 and 2p.m. CDT will, weather permitting, use the observatory to see the Sun track across the sky, and understand how that path is different at different times of year. Using the observatory, they will actually watch the Sun move, and thereby watch the Earth turn.

Westcave is a 30-acre preserve with a breathtaking cave formation with waterfalls and deep pools. It is carpeted with lush vegetation and teeming with wildlife. LCRA acquired the property in 1983 and protects in partnership with the Westcave Preserve Corporation, which manages the site and its educational programs.

Tours allow visitors to view these natural formations.
The newest addition to Westcave, the Warren Skaaren Environmental Learning Center, includes integrated exhibits that illustrate how the forces and cycles of nature have interacted to create and sustain this unique sanctuary. Exhibits us the four elements – earth, water, fire, and air – to explain Westcave’s geology, water, weather, and energy and their connection to the Preserve’s plants and animals.

For more information, call (830) 825-3442, or visit the Preserve’s Web site.


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