McDonald Observatory plans Dark Skies Festival for April 2022

FORT DAVIS — The McDonald Observatory is currently organizing programming for a Dark Skies Festival to be held at the Frank N. Bash Visitor’s Center outside Fort Davis on April 29 and 30, 2022. Details have yet to be finalized, but Observatory staff is asking locals and dark skies enthusiasts of all stripes to mark their calendars for the event. 

The festival will feature daytime and evening events including tours of the observatory, telescope viewing, speakers, food and live music. The programming is billed as “family friendly” and welcoming to budding astronomers of all ages. April’s festival will also mark the opening of a new exhibit, sponsored by the Apache Corporation, that explores dark sky protections through interactive content that encourages visitors to think about light and how it affects the night sky. 

The McDonald Observatory, opened in 1933, is a facility of the University of Texas at Austin’s College of Natural Sciences. It’s home to the Hobby-Eberly telescope, one of the largest optical reflecting telescopes in the world. The Big Bend region’s famously dark skies allow for optimum stargazing and fuel the important research conducted at the Observatory. Observatory staff hope next spring’s festival will help spark public interest in keeping dark skies dark. 

“We hope the Dark Skies Festival will raise appreciation of the exceptional night skies in our region, and raise awareness of easy solutions to mitigate light pollution,” said Stephen Hummel, a dark skies specialist at the Observatory. “Light pollution impacts not only research at McDonald Observatory, but also nocturnal wildlife, our culture, the health and safety of residents, and the local economy. We hope both residents and visitors to the region will join us in our celebration of the night sky.”