StarDate Magazine Celebrates 30 Years

31 January 2003

AUSTIN, Texas — The University of Texas at Austin’s McDonald Observatory celebrates 30 years of publishing StarDate magazine this month.


The publication began in its life in January 1973 as the typewritten, photocopied newsletter McDonald Observatory News. It has grown into a 24-page color publication which brings science and stargazing to about 10,000 subscribers six times each year, covering a wide range of topics related to astronomy, space exploration, skylore, and skywatching. The name changed to StarDate in 1986. This brought it together with McDonald Observatory’s nationally syndicated radio program of that name.

"McDonald Observatory has a long tradition of bringing astronomy to the public," said Director Frank Bash. "Our magazine and radio programs are known throughout the country. We’re proud that we’ve been able to keep these non-profit programs going so long. Together with our public programs and teacher programs at the Observatory itself, StarDate allows us to fulfill our mission of exciting the public about science."

According to editor Rebecca Johnson, StarDate fulfills a niche in the realm of astronomy magazines. "Our articles and skywatching information are designed to be easily understood by busy readers who have a genuine interest in the heavens, but whom may not be hard-core, telescope-toting amateur astronomers," Johnson said.

"We try to make it informative and fun, by providing a mix of serious news and feature stories, as well as whimsical columns like ‘Merlin,’ where readers can write in and ask questions of our slightly silly science guru.

"In contrast, our ‘AstroPrimer’ column brings in one of the unique assets available to us by having University of Texas astronomers write brief introductions to different astronomical topics," she said.

"Our magazine is pure information with almost no advertising," said Sandra Preston, the Observatory’s Director of Public Information and Education. "It provides our radio listeners and others across the country with sky calendars and star charts for each month so they can see what’s happening in the sky."

Subscriptions to StarDate magazine are $21 per year, and can be ordered online or toll-free by phone at 800-STARDATE.