24 February 2013

McDonald Observatory

24 Feb 2012--Went to the McDonald Observatory Friday afternoon, up in the Davis Mountain Range.   The town of Ft Davis is actually the highest elevation town in Texas at 5050 ft, and the Observatory is at 6291 ft, so it is even colder and windier up there than it is in the town.  We were fairly comfortable when we left the RV, but that changed quickly once we went on the tour.  haha

The Observatory is the number one attraction in this area, with over 100,000 visitors annually, but in all honesty it just wasn't our bag, so this will be quick.  haha  (It was about a 3 hour tour, so we could sympathize with the crew of Gilligan's Island...seemed a little endless!)  These are pics of the 3 biggest telescopes they have, and we got to tour 2 of them.  The white one on the right in the 2nd pic is a 107" lens telescope, while the 3rd pic shows the Hobby-Eberly telescope.  With a lens of 433", the Hobby was the 3rd largest in the world when it was built in 1997, but now is the 5th largest.

They had a small museum with a couple interesting things, like this actual meteorite, and that telescope is the 107" telescope...hard to capture its actual size in a pic.  We were inside the building that houses the telescope, learning all you ever DIDN'T want to know about how it works, for about a 30-40 minutes and about froze to death!  They have to keep the building at the average "night time temperature" of the area, so I actually had my hoodie up for almost the entire presentation.  I think it was indication an to the guide that it was time to leave when he could tell that my nose was starting to run!  haha

Before the tour of the buildings/telescopes, we were given a presentation in an auditorium that showed some cool pics.  These 1st 2 pics are of what is called "solar prominences" on the sun, different from "solar flares", which is shown in the 3rd pic.

This was probably the best part of the presentation.  They were able to show us live shots of the actual sun on the screen, which I took a picture of...that is a solar flare on the left side of the sun.

Some cool pics they showed us that were taken either from the telescopes or, the last 2, from satellite photos.

And the Northern Lights...I really want to go to see these in person, but you have to go in the winter to states like North Dakota...not sure our RV has the proper insulation for that experience.  haha

I probably liked the view of the area as the best part of the trip.  But we did learn a couple small fun facts.  Did you know that;
-- Galileo was the 1st person to view the sun thru a telescope back in the 1600s?
-- The sun is so big that 1.3 million earths could fit inside it.
-- A light year is equal to approximately 6 trillion miles.  So when they say something is about 4 light years away from the earth, that means about 24 trillion miles away!  Can we even wrap our minds around that?  Not me!

The view from the top.


  1. Telescopes ??? What do you go inside and look up ??? I never imagined anything that big.
    Northern Lights, so gorgeous. I would imagine that in person it would leave you speechless.

    1. The telescopes are so big that the astronomers that use them don't actually look into the telescope at all. The scopes are attached to computers so they are looking at computer screens as they search the skies.

      I have seen lots of pictures of the Northern Lights, so I agree with you as far as leaving you speechless in real life...I am bound and determined to see them one day!

  2. You may have had a long 3 hour trip,
    but I found this blog very funny due to
    your quick wit!!!

  3. Hi,
    I have been quietly following your travels and saw that you would be going to Carlsbad Caverns. You should definitely go to see the flight of the bats at dusk....it was really awesome. We didn't go to see them return in the morning but I would imagine that would be pretty cool also. We also met a park ranger there that had been up at the Heights when they were remodeling up there. He noticed my Gatey CYO jacket that had South Boston on the back. He took us up to the observatory that was closed to the public at the time and the views were incredible.....Enjoy your travels!!

    1. Hi Linda,
      Glad to see you are still following along...hope you are enjoying it...and you don't have to be so quiet in the furure! Don't hesitate to chime in! We head to Carlsbad next week and already have the bat watching on our things to do...hopefully I will be able to get some shots of them and share them here.

  4. Question for you Paula who was the first person to apply for social security?