Star Parties and Twilight Programs

Programs often sell-out: Reserve your tickets below.


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


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 intended to enrich the Star Party experience that takes place 1.5 hours before the Star Party. Two versions of the program are currently offered, depending on the time of year and the Moon phase. Reservations are nearly always required 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 (please include even children 5 and under in the category provided.) Discounted passes are available via our online reservation system (see below) until three hours prior to the program (assuming it isn't already sold out). Approximate length: 50-60 minutes.

There is NO telescope viewing during 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 nearly always required as this program frequently sells out.) Enjoy night sky constellation tours and views of celestial objects through a number of telescopes (varying in size up to a 24-inch Ritchey–Chrétien telescope) 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 (schedule varies during the end-of-the-year holidays and Spring Break). 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. As of January 2016, due to the Star Party's tremendous popularity, the Visitors Center began limiting that program's attendance. As the programs now frequently sell out, reservations will nearly always be required. Holiday weekend Star Parties can sell out well in advance so make reservations weeks or months ahead. Please include all members of your party in your reservation so we can get an accurate head count. To encourage advance reservations, discounted Star Party program passes may be purchased via our online system until they're sold out or up to three hours prior to the program start time. After that time, any remaining passes 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.


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.

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