Star Party!

We left El Paso right after breakfast and drove non-stop, arriving at the McDonald Observatory with mere minutes to spare before our 12:30 tour of the 107-inch Harlan J. Smith telescope.

Our guide showed us how the astronomers used hand controls to point the telescope and rotate the dome to the right place for the night’s observation. Of course, they don’t do that any more – they type their target into a computer (running Windows 98!) and it does the rest.

There are a lot of telescopes at the observatory besides the 107-inch; the Hobby-Eberly telescope is the largest, with an eleven-meter mirror.

After the tour, we drove to Marfa and our home for the night, the Paisano Hotel. Marfa began life as an railroad water stop, but today, it’s mostly known for art.

After dinner, we returned to the observatory for a Star Party; there were hundreds of people there to enjoy the dark sky, learn about the constellations, and peer through a telescope at distant galaxies and nebulae.

It’s been a long day, but worthwhile.