McDonald Observatory Will Promote Dark Skies Awareness with Gift from Apache Corporation

23 July 2019

FORT DAVIS, TEXAS — A $257,000 gift to The University of Texas at Austin’s McDonald Observatory from Apache Corporation will fund the observatory’s ongoing efforts to preserve the dark West Texas skies that make research possible and provide unsurpassed views of the universe to visitors.

Excess light shone into the sky can drown out the light from stars and galaxies, but dark-skies friendly lighting practices can help mitigate light pollution. Apache, an oil and gas exploration and production company, has adopted these and other dark-skies-friendly practices and serves as a model for other businesses operating in West Texas. Practices like adjusting and/or shielding lighting on drilling rigs and at other facilities can shine more light down onto the work site where it’s needed, both increasing worker safety and keeping this light out of the sky.

”The McDonald Observatory is an invaluable asset for astronomers across the globe. We are thankful for their team and their tremendous work in research and education, and we want to help ensure the observatory’s future success,” said John Christmann, Apache CEO and president. “We look forward to continuing our partnership to keep the night sky dark by sharing lighting best practices with others in the region.”

The funds Apache is providing to McDonald Observatory will be used to hire additional staff and to create resources for the observatory’s Dark Skies Program, which works with city councils, county governments, and businesses to promote good lighting solutions. The gift also will fund the creation of dark skies educational materials, outreach events, and a new permanent exhibit on dark sky preservation at the observatory’s Frank N. Bash Visitors Center.

“We are very grateful to Apache Corporation for their commitment to dark-skies friendly lighting practices and for their gift to help educate others about the benefits of these practices,” said Taft Armandroff, Director of McDonald Observatory. “This gift represents the first donation toward updating the exhibits in our Frank N. Bash Visitors Center, which informs over 80,000 guests per year.”

McDonald Observatory has worked with Apache for many years on preserving dark skies. This work provided a basis for the observatory’s wider collaboration with the oil and gas industry in recent years to improve lighting at drilling sites and related facilities in West Texas. This resulted in a memorandum of understanding on Recommended Lighting Practices signed last year between McDonald Observatory, the Permian Basin Petroleum Association, and the Texas Oil and Gas Association.

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Media Contacts:

Rebecca Johnson, Communications Mgr.
UT-Austin McDonald Observatory

Phil West
Apache Corporation

HET with star trails

HET with Star Trails (horizontal)

Smith Telescope with star trails

Smith Telescope with Star Trails