Science in America: The McDonald Observatory

McDonald Observatory, early eveningJohn and I both enjoy observing nature in various ways. John is a hiker and backpacker, and he’s most at home among redwood trees. I enjoy looking at stuff– creepy crawlies in the desert, deer wandering past our campsite, the thousand ways a prickly pear cactus can grow, the stars circling above us. We’re also keenly aware that, while we can enjoy a good deal of this on our own, having a skilled guide is invaluable for really getting to know the world around us.

Last night, we had an excellent opportunity for star-gazing as we move north from Big Bend towards Carlsbad Caverns and Roswell, New Mexico.  Not far from Big Bend is Fort Davis, Texas, home of the McDonald Observatory (which produces the StarDate magazine and popular radio show/podcast) and one of the largest optical telescopes in the world. On Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, the observatory hosts “Star Parties,” where visitors are treated to some guided stargazing, both with the naked eye, and through the smaller telescopes. Star Party start times vary by season: right now, they start at 7:30 PM, after the sun has fully set.