McDonald Observatory remains closed to the public
Important Announcement from the McDonald Observatory Frank N Bash Visitors Center ..
May 4, 2020 Last week Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced the first steps to re-open the state safely and strategically to limit the spread of COVID-19. While some businesses and organizations are re-opening, The University of Texas at Austin announced that it will continue to operate in its current mode. As part of the University, McDonald Observatory remains closed to the public at this time, though scientific research continues. No decision has been made yet on when we will re-open to the public. We will rely on input from the University, as well as local, state, and national health authorities to make that determination, which will be announced via social media, news release, and on our website once it is known. Public programs at the observatory remain on hold and no tickets will be sold until a re-opening date is decided and published. For details on our current status see the recent Message from the Director. For updates, please continue to consult this website as well as our press release page.
Daytime programs often sell-out in advance throughout the year: Reserve your tickets below.
Important: McDonald Observatory is located 450 miles west of Austin and is on Central Time .
Join a Guided Tour for an up-close look at large research telescopes at McDonald Observatory in
A Daytime Pass includes access to the exhibit gallery inside the Frank N. Bash Visitors Center, the Solar Viewing Program in our theater (typically 45-50 minutes), and a guided tour of our large research telescopes (approximately 90-100-minutes). Check the
calendar for program offerings and start times .
Learn more about what to expect on the Daytime Programs ...
The Visitors Center operates a set of specially filtered telescopes equipped with cameras that allow us to bring live, safe views of the Sun into our theater. Knowledgeable guides present history of the Sun, its formation, and what we expect the Sun to do over the next 5-6 billion years. Your guide directs the telescope to view the Sun and various surface features. On not so clear days, video and stills are used. This is typically a 45-50 minute program.
The guided tour begins at the summit of Mt. Locke. Visitors may drive their vehicles or ride the Observatory shuttle from the Visitor Center. Guides provide history of the Observatory and the large telescopes, including descriptions of the parts of the telescope, demonstrations of the telescope motions, etc. The tour continues to the summit of Mt. Fowlkes and the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET). At the HET, you'll learn more about that telescope's unique design and the current cutting-edge research done here. During Spring Break, Mt. Fowlkes & the HET are a
We occasionally alter the content or order to accommodate research activities or large numbers of visitors (e.g., during Spring Break, during which we offer additional programs which only visit one of the large research telescopes). While the Solar Viewing typically takes place much as described above, the content of the tour may take place in somewhat altered order, or the Hobby-Eberly Telescope may be self-guided only. Please note that, other than what is described above for the Solar Viewing program, there is no viewing through telescopes during the Guided Tours. These are the typical daytime activities.
From the start of the Solar Viewing to the end of the Guided Tour, the Daytime Programs typically run approximately 2.5 hours.
Visitors Center is accessible via wheelchair. The 107" Telescope dome floor is accessible via elevator which is available only on the guided tours. The summit of Mt. Locke has some steep grades. Inquire at the Visitor Center for a parking pass when participating in the guided tour. The HET's George T. Abell gallery at the summit of Mt. Fowlkes is accessible.
Passes for the Solar Viewing-only may also be purchased for those who may be on a tight time-schedule.
Self Guided Tours of our largest telescope, the 362-inch Hobby-Eberly Telescope, are available at no charge from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. See the drop-down text below for more information on what parts of the facility are available to the public.
Learn more about what to expect on the Self-guided Tour ...
Some areas of the Observatory are accessible without a guide. A self-guided tour map is available at the Information Desk ($1 donation) or
download it here for free
and save the paper. At the
top of Mt. Locke
, the views off to the east, south, and southwest can be stunning on a clear day. The booklet can fill you in on some of the history and contributions of the large telescopes at this peak. Restrooms are available at the 107" dome from 10:00a - 5:00p everyday. There are also several informative short videos available for view in the ground floor lobby of the 107" dome. Currently, no other part of the 107" dome is accessible to the public except on the guided tour. The 82" dome is not accessible to the public.
Over at the
summit of Mt. Fowlkes
, you can see the largest telescope in North America and the 2nd largest in the world, the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET). The George T Abell Gallery at the HET is open 10:00a - 5:00p and features informative videos explaining the Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment or HETDEX, for short. Public restrooms are also available in the HET gallery. A large panoramic window allows up-close views of this unique telescope
UT & Military discount / Refund policy / Pet policy / SBcglobal/AOL/Yahoo/etc. ...
UT & Military Discount: The Visitors Center offers a discount to our UT colleagues with a current valid UT ID. Enter any passes for current UT students, staff, or faculty under the "Student" category at check out. Active duty military should also select the "Snr (65+)/Mil" category to receive a discount.
Daytime Programs (Solar Viewings & Guided Tours) are refundable up to 3 days prior to the program Refund Policy: ($3 administrative fee) after which rescheduling will be offered (free). Please email or call us (432-426-3640, then zero at the message) with your cancellation or reschedule request. Missed programs will not be refunded or rescheduled. Contact us for more information or to let us know if you have special needs. Our Daytime Programs are primarily indoor programs so are not weather dependent (except when road conditions may present a safety issue.)
Pet Policy: As much as most of us would love to welcome our four-legged furry friends, UT policy, in accordance with the State Attorney's General Office, does not allow pets ( including emotional, comfort, etc., therapy/support animals) in Observatory buildings or in indoor/at outdoor public program venues. In accordance with federal regulations, trained service animals accompanying their handlers/owners are welcome.
SBCGlobal, AOL, Yahoo, HotMail, etc.: SCBGlobal customers ... SBCGlobal appears to be completely blocking email from our reservation system. Either use a different email address or send an email to our staff who can send you a PDF copy of the confirmation. We've had a number of visitors with AOL, Yahoo, HotMail sorts of email accounts tell us that they've not received their purchase confirmation emails. Apparently, these services aggressively filter for spam and our confirmations are getting caught in these filters. Please be sure to check your spam/junk folder and/or add " firstname.lastname@example.org " to your address book as an approved email contact before making your reservations to avoid missing your confirmation email.
K-12 Teachers: Bring your class to the observatory for an educational and inspiring Student Field Experience.
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.
Be sure to click on the "Book" button as your final step in making your reservation.