The summit of Mount Locke, home to McDonald Observatory, pokes into a particularly isolated patch of the rural West Texas sky, making it a very dark place to be on a moonless night.
The McDonald Observatory has nine primary research telescopes with varying capabilities and purposes. Here’s a look at some of facility’s powerful tools.
For sheer grandeur, few sights can beat a West Texas sunset. On May 20, though, the moon will heighten the drama by blocking most of the sun from view, leaving a brilliant ring of fire to drop below the western horizon.
Workers at the Gage Ranch, near Marathon, were eating lunch beside a stock tank on August 2, 1946, when a large meteorite slammed into the pond, splattering them with water, mud, and moss. When Dr. Gayle Scott, a Texas Christian University geologist, heard about the dousing that evening in Marathon, he telegraphed—strange as it may seem—a dry-goods salesman in Fort Worth for guidance. Oscar Monnig not only sent advice, he showed up in person four days later. He identified the fragments of the meteorite (which had split into many pieces when it splashed down), classified them as a rare variety, and bought a few pieces for his own collection.
“When I opened the door, I was startled by streaks of fire flying in every direction. It looked like millions of stars were shooting down to the ground.” Julia Palmer Roberts recalled her fear and wonder on a night in November 1833 when the stars fell on Shelby County in East Texas. The brilliant fireballs did not herald the end of the world, as her father believed, but a dramatic display of the Leonid meteors. This month, Texas skies may again dazzle observers with another meteor storm.