McDonald Observatory Hosts Special Events in Mid-March

8 March 2004

FORT DAVIS, Texas — The University of Texas at Austin McDonald Observatory invites the public to a slew of special events the week of March 13-20, which coincides with spring break for many schools around the state. The events include book signings and an expanded schedule of Star Parties, guided tours and Solar Viewings.

Karen Stewart Winget, author of Dear Visitor, Voices of McDonald Observatory,will be signing copies of her book on March 15, 16 and 17. Published in 2003, the work is a collection of oral histories from early and current residents, astronomers and staff, spanning from when McDonald Observatory was only a tent and a telescope, to today's world-class astronomical observatory.

The observatory will be holding lots of extra "Star Parties," too. Weather permitting, these events give visitors a chance to view stars, planets and nebulae through multiple telescopes in the Visitors Center Telescope Park under the darkest skies in the continental United States. Star Parties will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday (March 13), Monday (March 15), Tuesday (March 16), Wednesday (March 17), Friday (March 19) and Saturday (March 20). In the event of cloudy or rainy skies, alternative programs will be 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. From March 13-20, guided tours will be held daily at 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. (Visitors also can take a self-guided tour to see the largest telescope mirror in the world, daily from 9 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 real-time 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 General Admission ticket. Solar Viewings will be held daily March 13-20, at 9:45 a.m., 11:15 a.m., 12:45 p.m., 2:15 p.m., and 3:45 p.m.

McDonald Observatory is in the heart of the Davis Mountains of West Texas. 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.

Visitors traveling from areas in the Mountain Time zone (for example, El Paso) wishing to attend scheduled activities such as tours and Star Parties should note that the observatory is on Central Time.

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

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Note to Editors: Images of McDonald Observatory, including its research telescopes and interiors and exteriors of the Visitors Center, are available online in high resolution here.