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.