Who knew we had the most precisely mapped spot on the planet in the Davis Mountains in Texas? This came as a surprise to me when I read this article about the University of Texas’s McDonald Observatory that’s located there.
More importantly, perhaps, this observatory is the darkest major observatory in North America. It’s no surprise, then, that so many gather here every year to view the stars. In all, it’s said that this spot receives about 100,000 visitors every year, even though it’s three hours away from the nearest airport. I’m sure its remote location helps shield it from the light pollution emanating from nearby cities.
Its darkness affords many advantages for those wishing to gaze upon distant constellations. For instance, it gets over 300 nights of usable star-viewing every year, making it a popular research place for astronomers from around the world. But it also has the perk of allowing sky gazers to see sites in the Southern Hemisphere because of its privileged latitude.
And because of the advanced technological systems at the observatory, astronomers from around the world can study what’s being observed from this location. Technicians located on one side of the world can collect information and then share it with other interested parties on the other side of the world. Add to these features the fact that the McDonald Observatory has the third-largest telescope in the world with the world’s largest mirror (at 432-inches), and you’ve got a knock-out combination.
It just proves: you don’t have to have a Hollywood celebrity to have a party with the stars. The only concern is whether or not the skies will stay dark enough for this observatory to continue producing the starry hits it’s known for.