Special Viewing Nights

On select nights throughout the year, the Visitors Center offers special viewing programs on our large research telescopes. These programs have limited capacity and offer amazing views in an intimate and historic setting.

Public viewing on the 36-inch Telescope

Special Viewing Nights on the 36-inch provide fabulous views in a small group setting. Located a few steps from the Astronomers Lodge on Mount Locke, the 36-inch Telescope is a staff and visitor favorite. Passes are $100/person.

Public viewing on the Otto Struve 82-inch (2.1m) telescope 

The 82-inch Special Viewing Night takes place on the original McDonald Observatory telescope, the 2.1m Otto Struve Telescope. It is one of the largest and finest telescopes in the world through which routine public viewing is conducted. Experience this unique program yourself! Passes are $150/person.

People often ask which Special Viewing Night program is best for visitors with little or no telescope experience. These programs are appropriate for visitors of any experience level (our staff are happy to assist beginners as needed). The Otto Struve 82-inch is one of the largest telescopes in the world routinely made available for public viewing. The 36-inch Telescope is larger than many people have ever had the opportunity to experience. We're confident that you'll be impressed with the views no matter your level of experience.

In order to ensure the safety of our visitors and staff, guests under the age of 8 are not permitted to attend Special Viewing Nights. Families with children under 8 are encouraged to attend our Star Party program.

Before you sign up, be sure to check out our remote location. Overnight accommodations at the Astronomers Lodge may be available for participants. We will connect you to the lodge to book a room if you are interested. Friends of McDonald Observatory receive advanced notice of the Special Viewing schedule, which is published every four months. 


Struve dome at sunset

Struve Telescope Dome with Sunset

Special Viewing Night IMPORTANT NOTES

  • Please note that the 36-inch and 82-inch domes are NOT wheelchair accessible. This program involves the use of a step ladder and takes place in a space with low levels of illumination.
  • It is NOT possible to participate in both a Star Party and a Special Viewing Night program on the same night. 
  • In order to ensure the safety of our visitors and staff, guests under the age of 8 are not permitted to attend this program. Families with children under 8 are encouraged to attend our Star Party program.

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