Texas Night Sky Festival

McDonald Observatory has decided to reschedule the Texas Night Sky Festival. This decision has been taken in light of Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s March 31 executive order extending school closures and other efforts related to the mitigation of COVID-19 through at least May 3. A new date for the Night Sky Festival will be announced soon.

The Texas Night Sky Festival® is headed West! Join us April 25, 2020 from 10 am - 9 pm at the McDonald Observatory in the Davis Mountains. Everyone is invited to attend this FREE celebration of some of the darkest night skies in the continental U.S.A. The Festival will feature a full day of fun activities for the whole family and opportunities to learn about our night sky, what it can teach us, and how to protect it.

The McDonald Observatory welcomes you to a day of special presentations, solar observations, demonstrations of smart lighting, Dark Sky & Midnight Defender patch programs, and much more as we celebrate West Texas Nights! In addition to the FREE Festival activities, visitors may purchase tickets for the Twilight Program and/or Star Party program in the evening. Fort Davis, Alpine, and Marfa locals are eligible for free Twilight Program/Star Party admission with proof of residence (please call the front desk at 432-426-3640 for local tickets). 

The Texas Night Sky Festival is possible thanks to these gracious hosts, sponsors, and volunteers: McDonald Observatory, Apache Corporation, Texas Night Sky Festival®, and the Tierra Grande Chapter of Texas Master Naturalist.

Descriptions of some of the program highlights are listed below. Full schedule and additional program details coming soon!



·       Special, behind-the-scenes tours of the major research telescopes

·       Views of the Sun through a specialized telescope

·       Dark Sky and Midnight Defender patch programs

·       Model rocket launches with Blue Origin

·       Twilight Program (tickets required): learn about our solar system and how our night sky changes

·       Star Party (tickets required) View various targets in the night sky with powerful telescopes

·       Astrophotography Workshop (sold out!)


Educational Booths and Demonstrations

·       Big Bend Conservation Alliance

·       Big Bend Ranch State Park

·       Blue Origin

·       Keep Your Lights to Yourself: Light trespass and waste

·       Better Lights make Better Nights: Reducing glare at night

·       Turn off the blues! How blue light is disruptive

·       Don’t Bug the Bugs! How light pollution affects plants and pollinators

·       Starry Sky Austin: Design a light shield

·       Globe at Night: Citizen Science to measure and mitigate light pollution

Special Talks

·       Amber Harrison, Big Bend Ranch State Park: "Becoming a certified IDA Dark Sky Park"

·       Bill Wren, McDonald Observatory: "Preserving West Texas night skies"

·       Astronomer Stephen Odewahn: “Classifying Galaxies Near and Far”

·       Astronomer Steven Janowiecki on galaxy evolution

·      Cindy Cassidy, Texas International Dark Skies Association   

·       Amy Jackson, Starry Sky Austin, reading from her book Cassandra and the Night Sky

Know Before You Go

Dress warmly (especially for evening programs) and bring your reservation confirmation with you. The Visitors Center is open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Central Time (and additional hours on Star Party nights) every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. The phone number is 432-426-3640.

When to Visit
Special Needs & Concerns
Pet Policy & Service Animals
Visiting with young children
Cell Phone Usage
StarDate Café Hours of Operation
Frequently Asked Questions
General Information Printout