A trip to the McDonald Observatory has been on the list of must-see destinations for generations of Texas families. The Observatory along with the Johnson Space Center has planted the ‘final frontier’ firmly in minds of Texans young and old. It’s hard to believe, but the McDonald Observatory is getting ready to celebrate its 75th anniversary!
Located on Mount Locke in the Davis Mountains of West Texas, the Observatory was endowed by a gift from Texas banker William Johnson McDonald. When the first telescope was dedicated in 1939, it was the second largest telescope in the world and under one of the darkest skies of any major observatory in the continental United States. Today there are multiple telescopes and a wide variety of research projects underway, including studies in planetary systems, stars and stellar spectroscopy, the interstellar medium, extragalactic astronomy and theoretical studies in astrophysics and cosmology. The McDonald Observatory also welcomes the public with daytime tours and activities, Star Parties and special viewing nights.
May 5, 2014 will mark the 75th anniversary of the McDonald Observatory. But why wait to celebrate? A number of events are planned across the state of Texas to observe this important anniversary. The first event takes place in Austin this Saturday evening, October 19th at the Blanton Museum. Dr. Frank Bash who served as director of the McDonald Observatory from 1989 to 2003 will speak on “The Frontier and McDonald Observatory.” He sees today’s astronomers standing at the edge of a new frontier peering into a truly vast unknown. Dr. Bash will discuss some of the important questions in astronomy and the McDonald Observatory’s contributions to finding answers, including the quest to better understand dark energy. A reception will be held at 6 pm, followed by the talk at 7 pm at the Blanton’s Edgar A. Smith Building on the University of Texas campus in Austin.
Another event will be held in West Texas next week. If you’re planning to be in Fort Davis on Monday, October 21st, head to the Jeff Davis County Library where you can hear Dr. Tom Barnes talk on the McDonald Observatory’s planned research into dark energy.
If you’ve never made the trip to the Davis Mountains and the McDonald Observatory, the 75th anniversary year is a great time to visit!