McDonald Observatory Holds Open House April 4, Celebrates International Year of Astronomy

23 May 2009

FORT DAVIS, Texas —The University of Texas at Austin McDonald Observatory welcomes everyone to enjoy an Open House on Saturday, April 4, from 2 p.m. until 11 p.m. at its West Texas campus near Fort Davis. Admission is free. The event is part of the Observatory’s year-long celebration of the International Year of Astronomy.

The day’s events include tours of the large research telescopes, several science talks, as well as a star party and other telescope viewings. Free hot dogs will be offered, along with outdoor exhibits and family activities.

The telescope tours include introductions to the 2.1-meter Otto Struve Telescope and 2.7-meter Harlan J. Smith Telescope on Mount Locke, as well as the 9.2-meter Hobby-Eberly Telescope on Mount Fowlkes — one of the world’s largest telescopes. Astronomers will be on hand to describe how they use the telescopes in their research.

Inside the Frank N. Bash Visitors Center, educational programs featuring live telescope views of the Sun will be held in the theater at 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Outside, telescopes will show live views of the Moon and Saturn. A star party will take place at 9 p.m.

Astronomy talks begin in the Visitors Center theater at 5 p.m., when McDonald astronomer Matthew Shetrone will discuss “The Secret Life and Future Plans of Hobby-Eberly Telescope.” Geoff Blake of the California Institute of Technology will follow at 5:45 with his talk “From Dust to Us,” describing how our Sun and planetary system came to be. At 6:30, McDonald Observatory Director David Lambert will give a presentation about the Giant Magellan Telescope.

To reach McDonald Observatory, 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.

— END —