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McDonald Observatory

3640 Dark Sky Drive, Fort Davis, Texas 79734 USA

Open Now
Sat 10a-5:30p
  • Independent
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  • Wheelchair
  • Public
  • Outdoor
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“Gazing into the stars”

McDonald Observatory, a research unit of The University of Texas at Austin, is one of the world's leading centers for astronomical research, teaching, and public education and outreach. Observatory facilities are located atop Mount Locke and Mount Fowlkes in the Davis Mountains of West Texas, which offer some of the darkest night skies in the continental United States. The Observatory's administrative offices are on the UT-Austin campus. The Observatory works with the University's Department of Astronomy on both research and teaching. With its 9.2-meter (362-inch) mirror, the HET is one of the world's largest optical telescopes. It's optimized for spectroscopy, the decoding of light from stars and galaxies to study their properties. This makes it ideal for searching for planets around other stars, and studying distant galaxies, exploding stars, black holes, and more. The HET, dedicated in 1997, is a joint project of The University of Texas at Austin, The Pennsylvania State University, Stanford University, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, and Georg-August-Universität Göttingen.

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Reviewed by
Nancy Sewell

  • 1,228 Reviews
  • 361 Helpful
August 25, 2016


Info on events, tours, etc.

2 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 3 Reviews
  • 6 Helpful
March 12, 2015
Rated 5.0

We did the tour of the telescope, the solar event, twilight event and the star party. Bring blankets for the star party it was cold, but overall a wonderful day/ evening. Reserve ahead online. Very informative!

2 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 5 Reviews
  • 3 Helpful
July 06, 2014

Check the weather carefully before going.

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 1 Review
  • 0 Helpful
January 22, 2014

Be sure to go in the evening. The star-parties are a must!

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 7 Reviews
  • 1 Helpful
June 10, 2019
Rated 5.0

This is amazing. Get a ticket for the star party if you can. It’s mind blowing up there!

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Reviewed by

  • 3 Reviews
  • 0 Helpful
May 07, 2018
Rated 4.0

This was very different than I expected. We went to a star party and walked around in pitch black red lit paths. There were nine telescopes to look through. This location is so remote in the mountains that the dark sky was filling up more and more with stars every time I looked up. Truly beautiful. This isn’t the place to take pictures as any lights being out at the star party are not permitted. This was a fun unique experience. I rated four stars because I expected the scopes to be so much clearer (some slightly better than the naked eye) but our guide and the experience were worth it.

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Reviewed by

  • 34 Reviews
  • 4 Helpful
February 28, 2018
Rated 5.0

If you are in the Davis Mountains, be sure to check this place out, especially if you have kids or just love astronomy. If you get a chance, go to a star party. The presenter is very knowledgeable and you learn how to navigate your way across the night sky. Some of the college students set up telescopes after the main presentation for visitors to see night sky objects like Saturn, galaxies, nebulae and star clusters. Make sure you bring a jacket, it gets chilly.

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Reviewed by

  • 3 Reviews
  • 0 Helpful
September 05, 2016
Rated 5.0

Definitely worth the trip to Fort Davis just for this. The star party was awesome! Very cool, I've never seen the milky way so clearly. They had telescopes set up to see Saturn, a nebula, a few different star clusters, and the moon. What an amazing night. Even in the middle of summer, take a sweatshirt for the evening events, the mountain air cools significantly at night.

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Reviewed by
Jim Thomas

  • Road Warrior
  • 72 Reviews
  • 30 Helpful
March 11, 2015
Rated 5.0

We signed up for a star party on a cloudy night. We knew this but we didn't have time to wait for the weather to come around. It was still really neat. It isn't every day that you get to look through big telescopes.

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McDonald Observatory

3640 Dark Sky Drive
Fort Davis, Texas
79734 USA


Open now until 5:30 pm
  • Sun - Sat: 10:00 am - 5:30 pm

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  • Parking
  • Pets Allowed
  • Restrooms
  • Wifi
  • Wheelchair Accessible
  • Credit Cards Accepted
  • Outdoor Seating
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