It was a big deal! Like, galaxy-sized!
Here’s how it happened: Our younger son is a physics and astronomy major at UT. UT runs the McDonald Observatory in far west Texas. At a recent luncheon for parents of science majors, we met a gentleman who works for the observatory, and he comped us tickets for a tour, a Star Party, and dinner in the cafeteria where the actual astronomers eat, instead of at the cafe in the visitor’s center. See? Stellar deal.
Here are scenes from our daytime guided tour of two of the three giant telescopes: the 107-inch Harlan J. Smith atop Mount Locke, and the Hobby-Eberly on nearby Mount Fowlkes.
The Star Party began at 7 p.m., and conditions could not have been better: no moon, the darkest spot in Texas, and skies so clear that we could see the Andromeda Galaxy just by looking up. OK, so it was a little blurry, but considering it’s 2.3 million light years away, that ain’t bad!
Another thing that made the evening special: there were only about 70 of us there. Last Tuesday? They had 7-hundred-70 people in attendance at the Star Party. This meant a lot less jostling in the dark, and very short wait times at the telescopes, from which we were able to view Uranus, the Ring Nebula, Globular Cluster M15, and the Andromeda Galaxy.
(Disclaimer: I don’t do science, so I’ve kept details to a minimum here, so as not to get stuff wrong and sound like an idiot. Sorry, sciency people. But I’ve included links to reputable sources of information, so that you can read more.)