McDonald Observatory Makes Fun, Educational Spring Break Destination

1 March 2007

FORT DAVIS, Texas — The University of Texas at Austin McDonald Observatory invites the public to a week of special events at its West Texas home near Fort Davis, March 10-17. This coincides with Spring Break for many schools around the state. The events include an expanded schedule of star parties, guided tours, and solar viewings.

Star Parties give visitors a chance to view stars, planets, and nebulae through multiple telescopes at the Frank N.  Bash Visitors Center under the darkest skies of any major observatory in the continental United States. In the event of cloudy or rainy skies, alternative programs are offered.

During the day, guided tours of the Observatory include a visit to the 107-inch Harlan J. Smith Telescope. While on the tour, view 100-mile vistas from the summit of Mt. Locke while standing on the highest public road in Texas. (Visitors also can take a self-guided tour to see one of the largest telescopes in the world, daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Hobby-Eberly Telescope, with its 432-inch-wide mirror, is on adjacent Mt. Fowlkes.)

Other daytime activities include the solar viewing program, which allows visitors to enjoy views of the Sun that show details as small as a few thousand miles across on the Sun’s surface. Held in the multimedia theater at the Visitors Center, this program is included with a Daytime Programs ticket.

The schedule of events for March 10-17 is below. Please note that this year, Daylight Saving Time begins on March 11. Visitors traveling from areas in the Mountain Time zone (for example, El Paso) wishing to attend scheduled activities should note that the Observatory is in the Central Time zone.

March 10 ONLY

Guided Tours: 10:30 a.m., noon, 1:30 p.m., 3 p.m.
Solar Viewings: 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m., 3:30 p.m.
Twilight Programs:  4:45 p.m., 6 p.m.
Star Party: 7:30 p.m.

March 11 - 17

Guided Tours: 10:30 a.m., noon, 1:30 p.m., 3 p.m. , 4:30 p.m.
Solar Viewings: 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 5 p.m.
Twilight Programs: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday at 6:15 p.m., 6:55 p.m., 7:30 p.m.
Star Parties: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday at 9 p.m.

McDonald Observatory is in the heart of the Davis Mountains of West Texas, and makes a great destination at any time of year. Regular hours of operation for the Frank N. Bash Visitors Center are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day, with additional evening hours on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays when star parties are held. The Visitors Center is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.

Visitors traveling east on Interstate 10 from El Paso take Highway 118 south at Kent for the 34-mile drive to the Observatory. Visitors traveling west on Interstate 10 may take Highway 17 south at Balmorhea to Fort Davis, then Highway 118 north 16 miles to the Observatory. Visitors coming from Big Bend National Park take Highway 118 north through Alpine and Fort Davis to the Observatory.

For recorded information on times and prices, call toll-free at 877-984-7827 or visit online at For other information, call the Information Desk at 432-426-3640.

For information on lodging near the Observatory, please visit the Fort Davis Chamber of Commerce Web site at

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Visitors enjoying a star party at the Frank N. Bash Visitors Center at McDonald

Star Party

In this aerial view, the two large domes in the foreground are the 2.1-meter Str

Aerial View of McDonald Observatory

Frank N. Bash Visitors Center