McDonald Observatory Honors Local Businesses, Organizations for Night Sky Friendly Lighting

31 March 2021

FORT DAVIS, Texas — Just in time for International Dark Skies Week (April 5-12), McDonald Observatory is announcing a new program to honor West Texas businesses and organizations for Night Skies Friendly Lighting practices. These practices keep light on the ground and out of the sky, helping to preserve the exceptional night skies for which far West Texas is famous.

The first group of honorees include: Printco (Alpine), The Big Bend Sentinel (Marfa), the Jeff Davis County Courthouse and Annex (Fort Davis), and the Altus Midstream Diamond Cryogenic Complex (Balmorhea).

“Preserving the dark skies around McDonald Observatory is critical to both the scientific research and public outreach components of our mission,” said Taft Armandroff, Director of McDonald Observatory. “Our dark West Texas skies enable astronomers to study a faint galaxy whose light has traveled to us over billions of years, and also facilitate a visitor from a large city to see the Milky Way for the first time.”

These organizations are being recognized for practices such as using fully shielded lighting fixtures, warm white light colors, and no more light than necessary for the job. Next time you pass by one of these buildings at night, notice the pleasant lighting that safely illuminates the walkways without harsh glare.

While these lighting practices help keep the skies dark for McDonald Observatory’s telescopes, they are also better for the businesses themselves. Night sky friendly lighting designs improve visibility and safety, and can be more cost effective than traditional designs. And they are better for our health and environment.

McDonald Observatory has worked with Apache Corporation for many years on lighting recommendations for their oil and gas installations in West Texas. The company has provided leadership within their industry on implementing best lighting practices.

“We are grateful to the McDonald Observatory for their partnership over the years. Through our collaboration, we have worked to educate others about the need for dark skies and designed and modified our facilities’ lighting to help protect the observatory’s research,” said Clay Bretches, executive vice president, Operations, Apache Corporation and Altus Midstream CEO and president. “No matter our size or the nature of our business, we all have a role in keeping this part of Texas so special.”

All awardees will receive a recognition poster, as well as window decals to display at their site, acknowledging their recognition in the program. They will be recognized on the observatory’s website.

This business recognition program is ongoing, and the observatory encourages people to nominate either their organization or someone else’s. Organizations within the following counties are eligible: Jeff Davis, Brewster, Presidio, Culberson, Pecos, Reeves, and Hudspeth. To nominate, or for more information, visit:

http://mcdonaldobservatory.org/pages/recognition-program

During Dark Skies Week, the observatory will host special programs both on site and online. These include science activities families can do at home, a Dark Skies Town Hall, a Live Deep Sky Tour, and more. For more information, visit:

http://mcdonaldobservatory.org/dark-sky-week-mcdonald-observatory

The observatory is working on a number of other projects promoting dark skies. These include developing a new permanent exhibit and new public programs to help educate our visitors and neighbors about preserving the night sky. This work is made possible thanks to a partnership with Apache Corporation. We are also working with local organizations and businesses toward creating an International Dark Sky Reserve, to include parts of both West Texas and Mexico.

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Media Contacts:

Rebecca Johnson, Communications Mgr.
McDonald Observatory
The University of Texas at Austin
512-475-6763

Alexandra Franceschi
Apache Corporation and Altus Midstream
713-296-7276

Night Sky Friendly Lighting Business Recognition Poster

Big Bend IDSR

Big Bend International Dark Sky Reserve