Updated November 19, 2010Dark-Sky Destinations in Texas
West Texas offers dark-sky views to travelers even as they drive across its wide open spaces on the way to a favorite destination.
McDonald Observatory, located atop Mt. Locke near Fort Davis in West Texas, began viewing programs in 1934. This dedication to the mission that its benefactor William Johnson McDonald set forth when he left his fortune to the University of Texas, continues today.
This observatory offers a beautiful visitors center and daily tours and solar viewing. You can have a snack or a meal in the visitors center. Even if you aren’t that hungry, who can resist checking out the fare at an eatery called StarDate Café, while enjoy a view of the observatories?
But, better than that, once a month you can participate in “Dinner and a Viewing” on McDonald’s 107-inch Harlan J. Smith Telescope or the 82-inch Otto Struve Telescope. In addition, “Special Viewing Nights” are available on the 36” Telescope. These is a very popular program, so be sure to make reservations early. If you plan to attend one of these programs, you might want to consider the opportunity to spend the night at the McDonald Observatory’s Astronomers Lodge.
Please note that these programs are not suitable for young children. However, the Evening Star Party and the Twilight Program on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday nights each week should be fun for the whole family.
Location: Map and Directions.
About Your Visit to McDonald, including times and admission prices, star parties, tours and public programs, plus tips you need to know.
Dinner and a Viewing
StarDate Online and Texas Native Skies are educational websites from McDonald Observatory.
The Texas Star Party
This is the big star party of Texas and it’s held on a big piece of land, the 3,500-acre Prude Ranch. It’s just down the road from McDonald Observatory, so you plan your trip just right, you can see the stars of Texas from the Star Party and from the observatory.
If you’re a serious amateur astronomer, you can do some serious stargazing, following in the footsteps of those who listened to the likes of Clyde Tombaugh, David Levy, Eugene Shoemaker and Timothy Ferris as they spoke to those gathered at the Texas Star Party in years past.
About Attending the Texas Star Party, including dates, directions and star party rules.
Eldorado Star Party
This small star party is held each year on the 7,000-acre X-Bar Ranch near El Dorado, Texas. It is advertised as, “Just for amateur astronomers who want dark skies and a protected environment.” If you have a little extra time, either coming or going, you might visit the Caverns of Sonora, one of the most beautiful caves in the Southwest.
About the Eldorado Star Party — All you need to know before you go and after you get there.
Three Rivers Institute
The Comanche Springs Astronomy Campus is located in northwest Texas, under dark starry skies, about 15 miles west of Crowell. It’s part of the Three Rivers Institute (3RF), a private educational foundation, whose mission is to “promote and foster arts and science education.”
Comanche Springs Astronomy Campus (CSAC) offers cutting edge astronomy for public viewing programs. The array of observatories, telescopes and other viewing equipment provided by CSAC is truly amazing. All star parties are free and open to the public. They will even provide some basic camping necessities for your overnight stay. In addition to the events held on the Astronomy Campus, the 3RF Astronomy StarStrucks will bring their equipment to host a star party at your location, if you are in north Texas.
P.O. Box 79;
Crowell, Texas 79227
More Dark Skies Information
For those seeking that perfect place to enjoy pure transparent dark skies of the Southwest we have gathered information by stateStar Party 101 for important information to know before attending your first star party.