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Home > Features > Texas Stories > Watching the Skies at McDonald Observatory

Watching the Skies at McDonald Observatory
 
By Greg Fieg

If you've been to the state's sparkling shores, its towering peaks, its vast plains, and those little secret places, now you can use Texas as a stepping-off point to the planets, the stars and the galaxy.

Far West Texas is home to the McDonald Observatory with its 433-inch, 107-inch and 82-inch telescopes. They and others are trained on various heavenly bodies that sparkle in the hemispheric dome, high atop Mount Locke, a near 7,000-foot-high peak in the Davis Mountains.

Operated by the astronomy department of the University of Texas at Austin, the knowledgeable staff conducts "star parties" every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday night throughout the year, at which visitors are allowed to gaze into the heavens. Extra star parties are held during Spring Break and during the Christmas holidays.

The observatory is named for the late William Johnson McDonald, a Paris, Texas, banker and observatory benefactor who donated $1.2 million to the university in 1928.

The observatory opened in 1932 in cooperation with the University of Chicago, and is located just 18 miles from Fort Davis.

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