Visiting one of Texas’ many observatories makes it easy to connect with nature. A clear night sky can be your small window to the universe. Look through the eyepiece of a telescope that faces the Moon and imagine a fiery sun reflecting itself onto the lunar surface, giving Earth the coolness of night. Ponder if the transient stars that flicker overhead still exist or if they burned out light years ago. Feel a sense of community, as passionate astronomers share their knowledge on the universe. Step into nature and get a front row seat to the cosmos at these Texas observatories!
21901 FM 762 Rd, Damon
Do you want to take a break from the bustling city? Visit a starry oasis at the George Observatory. The observatory is situated in the scenic Brazos Bend State Park and houses three domed telescopes. It includes the 36-inch Gueymard Research Telescope, which is one of the biggest telescopes in the United States. Depending on the season and time of the month, visitors are able to see the total eclipse of the Moon and cloud belts on Jupiter. The meteorite exhibit gives visitors the opportunity to observe the Allende, Chihuahua, Mexico carbonaceous chondrite meteorite that existed before the birth of the solar system. A simulated space mission at the Expedition Center creates an unforgettable experience. Astronomy Classes help amateur astronomers learn about the universe and the Refractor and Reflection Telescope Class shows how to set up a telescope. Celebrate a birthday at the observatory and blast off to a new year! The observatory is open on Saturdays from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.
2505 S Houston Ave, Humble
Expand your knowledge of the universe at Insperity Observatory! Public nights are the first Friday of every month from sunset to 10 p.m. and allow visitors to observe celestial objects through the telescopes. Lead Astronomer Dr. Aaron Clevenson and volunteers help facilitate the telescopes, while teaching visitors about astronomy. Ask Assistant Astronomer Dave Tomlin about his stunning astrophotography and see photos of Dark Nebulae or Supernovae that he took at the observatory. “What’s Up Doc?” newsletters are available on the website and show which celestial objects to view each month. Reservations can be made for groups. Check their calendar for upcoming events.
3640 Dark Sky Drive, Fort Davis
McDonald Observatory, located in the Davis Mountains is a haven for the novice stargazers and experienced astronomers to explore the universe. The University of Texas at Austin operates the observatory that houses several research telescopes. They offer a guided tour of the Hobby-Eberly, one of the telescopes at McDonald and the world’s third-largest optical telescope. The visitor’s center recommends you stop by and observe how astronomers map the sky through spectroscopy, a technique for measuring light. Reservations are suggested for the self-guided tours that are from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and solar viewings at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Star Parties are held Tuesday, Friday and Saturday evenings and show astronomical objects like planets and galaxies. Knowledgeable staff will help you with any questions. StarDate Café recharges even the hungriest astronomers with a selection of sandwiches, quesadillas, tacos, juice, and more. Before you leave, splurge on a McDonald Observatory t-shirt and represent the galaxy you live in!
–By Jennifer Murphy