Star Parties and Twilight Programs

The McDonald Observatory is not a Federal facility and is therefore not affected by the current government shutdown.  The Visitors Center remains open for regular business and all previously scheduled programs will be offered.

Programs often sell-out weeks or even a month or more in advance: Reserve your tickets below well in advance.

Important: McDonald Observatory, part of the University of Texas at Austin, is located 450 miles west of Austin and is on Central Time.

Our Spring Break 2019 schedule is now posted! If you're visiting from March 9th thru the 23rd, please see this expanded schedule of programs.

Every Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday evening (except where noted), the Visitors Center opens for our popular Twilight and Star Party programs.

Twilight Program

The Twilight Program is an educational program that takes place 1.5 hours before a scheduled Star Party. Two versions of the program are currently offered, depending on the time of year and the Moon phase. Reservations are strongly recommneded to ensure participation, as this program frequently sells out. Please include all members of your party in your reservation so we can get an accurate head count. Discounted passes are available via our online reservation system (see below) until three hours prior to the program. Approximate length: 50-60 minutes.

There is NO telescope viewing during the Twilight Program. If you'd like to view the night sky with us, sign up for the Star Party instead or in addition to the Twilight Program!

Participation in the Twilight Program is not required for enjoying the Star Party. The Twilight Program is not a prerequisite for participation in the Star Party.

Star Party

The Star Party program (~ 2 hours, depending on weather & crowd size) is fun for the entire family, and is open to everyone (reservations are strongly recommended as this program frequently sells out.) Enjoy night sky constellation tours and views of celestial objects through a number of telescopes in the Rebecca Gale Telescope Park at the Visitors Center (i.e., NOT at the research telescopes at the top of our peaks) every Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday evening. Those with mobility issues, please note the distances involved with participating in the Star Party. There is a slight incline over that distance from the Center all the way through the Telescope Park to the Amphitheater with that latter structure being ~ 20 feet higher than the Center's front doors.

Many are surprised by the large number of visitors who join the Star Parties. In order to provide a safe and enjoyable experience for all visitors, we've set a program capacity for each Star Party. These programs are tremendously popular and they do sell out. Star Parties on Holiday weekends often sell out weeks or months in advance so please make reservations well ahead. Star Party program passes may be purchased online until they're sold out or up to three hours prior to the program start time. After that time, if any passes remain unsold (unlikely to highly unlikely depending on the time of year), those may be purchased upon arrival at the higher "at the door" prices. As most Star Parties sell out, passes will generally NOT be available at the door.

Dress warmly; most of the program takes place outdoors.  In the event of rain, significant clouds, or high winds/dust/humidity, a series of unique indoor presentations will stimulate your interest and curiosity.

During Daylight Saving Time, the Visitors Center is open 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m., re-opening before the Twilight Program begins. The Visitors Center is open from 10 a.m. through the end of the Star Party during Standard Time. Star Party start times change with the seasons. Check the calendar for program offerings and start times for the date you plan to visit. Be considerate with your headlights when leaving the Star Party and exit the parking lot to the west.

Looking for a "big telescope", small group experience? Check out our Special Viewing Night programs available on several of our research telescopes!

The system defaults to one adult pass. If you don't need that pass, click the number field and select zero.

If you're 65 or over and want the senior discount, choose the "Snr (65+)" pass only. There is no need to purchase both an adult and a senior pass ... by definition, if you're a senior, you're already an adult. Adding the senior pass does not discount the adult pass ... it just adds another pass to your purchase and you'll end up purchasing more than you need.

Be sure to click on the "Book" button as your final step in making your reservation. Failure to click the "Book" button will result in no reservations being made.

Our Spring Break 2019 schedule is now posted! If you're visiting from March 9th thru the 23rd, please see this expanded schedule of programs (not the reservation schedule below.)

Buy Tickets


Visitors enjoying a star party at the Frank N. Bash Visitors Center at McDonald

Star Party

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
Visiting with young children
Cell Phone Usage
StarDate Café Hours of Operation
Frequently Asked Questions
General Information Printout