Visit the Observatory

Aerial view of McDonald Observatory.

The Frank N. Bash Visitors Center is the public outreach center for McDonald Observatory in West Texas. We aim to inform, educate, and inspire through our public programs, and support the teaching of the science and hobby of astronomy.

The Visitors Center is your check-in point for all public programs. Inside, extensive exhibits explain what astronomers do at the observatory. The Visitors Center also includes a theater and gift shop.

The Visitors Center is open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Central Time (and additional hours on Star Party nights) everyday except Thanksgiving, Christmas, & New Year's Days. Below, find out more about our public programs, including daily tours of the large research telescopes and our famous thrice-weekly Star Parties under some of the darkest night skies in the continental United States as well as frequent Special Viewing Nights on some of the largest telescopes in the world routinely available for public observational programs. 

All programs are subject to capacity limits. To ensure program participation, make advance reservations online. Star Parties Twilight Programs are routinely selling out. If you want to attend, PLEASE make reservations!

With the Partial Solar Eclipse on August 21st, the Visitors Center will be altering its schedule of programs somewhat:

  • there will be no 11:00a programs on Sunday, the 20th, however the 2:00p programs will be offered

  • live viewing (weather permitting) of the eclipse through our filtered telescope & camera set-up will be offered from in the Visitors Center theater and direct viewing (weather permitting) with safely filtered telescopes will be offered from the Center's courtyard areas

  • regular Daytime Programs on Monday, the 21st, will be canceled in favor of viewing the eclipse

  • a 3:00p tour of the research facilities will be offered -- go to our Eclipse Day page for more information
     - due to demand, we've added a 10:30a tour ... go to the Eclipse Day page for more details

Important: McDonald Observatory, part of the University of Texas at Austin, is located 450 miles west of Austin and is on Central TimeAs a University of Texas campus, the Observatory grounds are "concealed carry" only.


Programs & Facilities