Universo Radio Program to Cease Regular Production

July 6, 2011

AUSTIN, Texas — The Spanish-language astronomy radio program Universo which has brought the heavens closer to millions of listeners for more than 15 years will cease regular production this month due to funding constraints.

Produced by The University of Texas at Austin's McDonald Observatory, its programs have included topics in skywatching and the science and history of astronomy, with a special focus on the contributions of Latino scientists and the skylore of Mesoamerican cultures. McDonald Observatory will continue to produce special Universo programs on a sporadic basis.

At its height, Universo aired on about 200 stations across the United States, Mexico, Canada, Argentina, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala and Venezuela, reaching about four million listeners daily. From April 1, 1995 to Oct. 31, 2010, the program racked up 5,697 broadcasts. From November 2010 to August 2011, the show switched format to a monthly five-minute program.

"I want to acknowledge the great work that this crew has done," said executive producer Damond Benningfield. "I want to thank everyone who has been involved in this program and helped to make it a success for many years. I look forward to working with them on future special projects."

El Paso radio personality Teresa "Fendi" de la Cruz is the voice of Universo. Marco Lara is the program's associate producer, and Arturo Vasquez is a consulting producer. Ignacio "Nacho" Acosta was the program's audio engineer for most of its run. Dr. Antonio Candau is the show's Spanish translator. Technical editors include Dr. Jorge Lopez, Dr. Carmen Pantoja and Dr. Gustavo Ponce.

"McDonald Observatory is especially grateful to the dedicated Universo team, all the stations that aired the program, and the Universo funders," said Sandra Preston, assistant director for education and outreach. Past funders include the National Science Foundation, NASA, the American Astronomical Society, American Electric Power, The American Honda Foundation, The Brown Foundation, the Communities Foundation of Texas, David and Julie King, the Friends of McDonald Observatory, The Gale Foundation, The Goodman-Abell Foundation, Harcourt General Foundation, The Long Foundation, National Instruments, The Samuel H. Fredericks, Jr. Trust, the SBC Foundation and an anonymous donor.

"The Spanish-speaking population in the U.S. is continuing to grow," Benningfield said. "We're committed to producing as much Spanish-language content as funding will allow, whether it be for radio, online or print."

Universo's Spanish-language website will continue to operate and offer daily skywatching tips. The Agujeros Negros (Black Holes Encyclopedia) website will continue to be updated periodically. The Universo Facebook page will remain active.

This news release text is available online in Spanish.

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