I left the McDonald Observatory with a camera full of photos and a nice serene feeling of a day well spent. I highly recommend that you visit this place if you find yourself in this beautiful area of Texas. It made me think about maybe having selected the career of Astronomer when I first started my studies in college. These guys and gals certainly have a gorgeous campus to work from.
This Telescope lays claim to be the third largest in the world. The reflecting surface is composed of 91 hexagonal mirror segments, it has a total reflective surface of 11 meters in diameter, and it weighs 13 tons. It is most impressive to see up close and in person.
This Telescope is one of the first you will see on the scenic drive up Highway 118. Completed in 1968 with the help of NASA for a cost of $5 million, it was then the third largest in the world. One of the interesting projects it was involved in was using a laser to measure the distance to the moon by reflecting light off of mirrors left on the moon by Apollo Astronauts. The tour takes you up the mountain and provides a walk through of the telescope, and a display of its history and powers.
Prepare yourself for tons of photos from McDonald Observatory. It all begins at the Visitor Center just off of Highway 118 and north of a beautiful drive through Davis Mountains State Park. If nothing else, this is a wonderful pit stop with awesome views and even a nice cafe to grab a bite to eat and a refreshing beverage. From here you can get all the information you need and sign up for a tour of the facilities.