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Got the Astronomy bug? A visit to the McDonald Observatory is a worthwhile trip

Pluto has been in the news this week as the New Horizons space probe passes the planet and sends back some cool images for those of us who are interested in that type of thing to enjoy. Science is fun, unless it's chemistry and your grade depends on it. But this is not one of those times. 

While OKC is completely consumed by light pollution, there are places around the state where you can get away from it. The Oklahoma City Astronomy Club regularly hosts viewing parties. 

But if you're interested in getting farther away, the McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis ,Texas is a reasonable drive from OKC and there are some things to do in the area that don't involve astronomy, including Fort Davis, which is an impressive late 1800s fort used in the Indian Wars. It's still mostly intact and has some pretty informative displays. 

But back to the stars. Each Friday the McDonald Observatory hosts a Star Party where people can view all sorts of cosmic phenomenon through lenses of varying strengths. They have the big telescopes housed in the domes, and others around the grounds manned by area volunteers who are more than happy to answer questions. I've been twice and it was great each time. For $12 you can't beat it. 

The experience begins with a 40 minute presentation in the amphitheater on the top of the mountain where the observatory is located. The talk is incredibly interesting and ours began with the presenter aiming his laser pointer at the sky and pointing out a flashing, rapidly moving object on the horizon. It was the International Space Station, which was incredibly cool to see moving like that. The revelation brought a gasp from the crowd who any other time might have not realized what they were looking at. 

Matt Patterson

Matt Patterson has been with The Oklahoman since 2006. Prior to joining the news staff in 2010, Patterson worked in The Oklahoman's sports department for five years. He previously worked at The Lawton Constitution and The Edmond Sun.... Read more ›