One afternoon during our stay at Davis Mountains State Park we took a short side trip over to the McDonald Observatory. Considering that we’d been seeing it from our hikes the last couple of days it appeared to be a good side trip. We had to head to the overlook at the state park one evening to get cell reception so we could look up the times and reservations for the solar viewing and tour and was lucky to find a time slot that was still available. Unfortunately the star party was not open so we did not get to enjoy that! If you don’t have reservations you can drive over to the visitors center and have a look as well as drive over to the different observatories to have a general look at the outside and the view of the area from the top of the road. It’s still inspiring to see if you didn’t have the time for a tour!
The solar viewing took place in an auditorium at the visitors center and for the most part Forest wasn’t too fidgety. A lot of what was talked about is escaping me now but we got a brief run-down on the history of the observatory, the different telescopes, and a bit about how the encroaching light from oil and gas exploration north of there, particularly north of I-10, is brightening the night sky in that region.
It was frigid up at the top where the observatories were located, the wind whipping through causing everyone to huddle against the building where they could. Thankfully we went inside but it was still chilly in there to keep the machines calibrated appropriately when they opened the top up at night.
If you are in the area it is worth a stop in for the tour!