Visit McDonald Observatory’s Open House Saturday, April 9

March 22, 2011

FORT DAVIS, Texas — An open house at McDonald Observatory on Saturday, April 9 will run from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m., and includes tours of large research telescopes, science talks, a star party and other telescope viewings.

Events are free. Visitors should make reservations online for all events because they are likely to fill up. For schedules and to make reservations, go to the McDonald Observatory Open House.

Throughout the afternoon, see telescope views of the sun and moon in the public telescope park outside the Frank N. Bash Visitors Center. Local Boy Scouts will demonstrate a solar oven. Hotdogs, balloons and face painting will be offered.

Research telescope tours include introductions to the 2.7-meter Harlan J. Smith Telescope and the 9.2-meter Hobby-Eberly Telescope, one of the world’s largest telescopes.

Astronomy talks begin in the Visitors Center theater at 5 p.m., when Steve Odewahn will discuss “Galaxies Near and Far.” Matthew Shetrone will follow at 5:45 p.m. with his talk “A Night in the Life of an Astronomer.” Both Odewahn and Shetrone are Hobby-Eberly Telescope astronomers at McDonald. At 6:30 p.m., J. Craig Wheeler will discuss "Black Holes, String Theory and the Holographic Universe." Wheeler is a professor of astronomy at The University of Texas at Austin and an internationally known expert on the exploding stars called supernovae.

At 7:45 p.m., a special Twilight Program will focus on Saturn's rings. At 9 p.m., a star party will be held in the public telescope park.

To reach McDonald Observatory, visitors traveling east on Interstate 10 from El Paso take Highway 118 south at Kent for the 34-mile drive to the observatory. Visitors traveling west on Interstate 10 may take Highway 17 south at Balmorhea to Fort Davis, then Highway 118 north 16 miles to the observatory. Visitors coming from Big Bend National Park take Highway 118 north through Alpine and Fort Davis to the observatory.

Established in 1932, The University of Texas at Austin McDonald Observatory near Fort Davis, Texas, hosts multiple telescopes undertaking a wide range of astronomical research under the darkest night skies of any professional observatory in the continental United States. McDonald is home to the consortium-run Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET), one of the world's largest, which will soon be upgraded to begin the HET Dark Energy Experiment. An internationally known leader in astronomy education and outreach, McDonald Observatory is pioneering the next generation of astronomical research as a founding partner of the Giant Magellan Telescope.

For more information, contact: Rebecca Johnson, McDonald Observatory, College of Natural Sciences, 512 475 6763.