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Remembering William Johnson McDonald in Paris, Texas

Shared by McDonald staff member Joel Barna on May 5, 2014

On May 2, 2014, McDonald Observatory Director David L. Lambert gave a talk on the history and future of McDonald Observatory in Paris, Texas — the home of William Johnson McDonald (1844-1926), whose bequest to the University of Texas created McDonald Observatory.

Time Travels of the 82-inch Telescope Model

Shared by McDonald staff member Sandra Preston on April 15, 2014

Last week, the more than 75-year-old model of the 82-inch telescope arrived at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, Texas. This morning I got to be there when they opened the crate containing it. I felt a little like Indiana Jones in the "Raiders of the Lost Ark" movie to get to be a part of this ceremony. The model is on loan from the Western Reserve Historical Society and it came all the way from Cleveland, Ohio. Twenty-five years ago, the model was exhibited at the Museum of the Big Bend at Sul Ross State University in Alpine in association with McDonald Observatory’s 50th anniversary.

From the Midwest to West Texas

Shared by McDonald staff member Joe Wheelock on April 8, 2014

I grew up on a farm near the town of Boonville, IN, and I have been interested in Astronomy since I was five years old. I received a 2.4-inch telescope as Christmas gift when I was ten and I joined the Evansville Astronomical Society when I was twelve. The club's observatory was at a local park where the the skies were pretty dark. The original telescope was a 12.5 inch F/10 Reflector that was made by the astronomer Edgar Everhart. It was replaced a long time ago with a Celestron C-14.

Toddler to Technician

Shared by McDonald staff member Edmundo Balderrama on January 9, 2014

My experience with the McDonald Observatory began at an early age. In fact, when I was just a toddler in the 1950s. I vaguely remember visiting the observatory with family members and being simultaneously awed and terrified by the drive up. The 82" Otto Struve was the only one of the larger telescopes in existence at the time. We would make a day event of it, driving up from Marfa early and spending most of the day in the beautiful setting atop the Davis Mountains. A picnic with barbacoa cooked on a large pit at one of the road side parks leading up to Mt. Locke was always the way we completed our experience. Once at the observatory, the adults would split off from the brood of youngsters, leaving one of the adults to tend to us while they all went up to the 82" for a look see. I don't know what sort of tours they had at the time, if any, but I believe the telescope was accessible to visitors then. We kids were left to our own entertainment, supervised by a parent, and we made the most of it. It must have been like herding cats for whomever was left in charge because I can remember at least half a dozen to a dozen cousins at any one visit.

Visit to McDonald Observatory

Shared by McDonald staff member Melissa Pollard on November 12, 2013

In January 2001, I watched the Sun rise from the Harlan J. Smith 107" Telescope building. I saw its dome close when the Sun came up.

At the W.L. Moody, Jr. Visitors Information Center, among other treasures, I purchased earrings that I still wear. The Frank Bash Visitors Center was being built next to it.

The people in Fort Davis proved to be friendly, knowledgable, and shared their knowledge freely. The place seemed magical. It was so green and so many trees dotted the landscape of the Fort Davis mountains.

I really enjoyed Joe's official tour of the Harlan J. Smith Telescope and of the Hobby-Eberly Telescope.