Top Spots for Stargazing in and Around Austin

You might be surprised to learn that opportunities for stargazing abound here in the heart of Texas–even in the center of the city.

Eagle Eye Observatory in Burnet

Eagle Eye Observatory

Clap along if you know this one…

The stars at night are big and bright
Deep in the heart of Texas

You know it. You love it. You shout it proudly anytime you get a chance. But how often, really, do you get out and marvel at the beauty of those big, bright stars? Here’s a list of spots where you can get a little closer to the cosmos.

Wednesday Night Star Party at UT: Every Wednesday night while UT is in session, the Department of Astronomy sponsors FREE public star parties on the top roof of Robert Lee Moore Hall. All ages are welcome, but younger children must be under adult supervision at all times. Fall 2016 sessions are Wednesday nights August 31 – November 2 from 8-10 p.m. and November 9-30 from 7-9 p.m. (excluding November 23). Viewing times change throughout the year so please check this page for current times before planning your visit. Robert Lee Moore Hall, Southeast corner of Dean Keeton and Speedway, Austin.

Friday and Saturday Night Public Viewing at UT: Every Friday and Saturday while UT is in session, the Department of Astronomy hosts FREE viewing on the Painter Hall Telescope. Both Friday and Saturday nights are open to the general public. All ages are welcome, but younger children must be under adult supervision at all times. Fall 2016 sessions are Friday and Saturday nights, September 2 – November 5 from 8-10 p.m. and November 11 – December 2 from 7-9 p.m. (excluding November 25 & 26). Viewing times change throughout the year, so please check this page before planning your visit. Painter Hall, 24th St & Inner Campus Dr, Austin.

ACC Star Parties (Round Rock and Austin): ACC hosts Star Parties with hands-on science exhibits for the kids, planetarium shows for everyone, public talks by ACC professors, and guided viewing of the night sky through telescopes. FREE and open to the public. Hosted at two campuses: Highland Learning Center, 6101 Airport Blvd, Austin and ACC’s Round Rock Campus, 4400 College Park Dr, Round Rock. Check the website for updates as fall 2016 dates are still to be determined.

Eagle Eye Observatory (Burnet): Escape to the stars with the help of Eagle Eye’s high-tech telescopes. The 16-inch Ealing “Educator” Cassegrain Telescope offers research-quality views of the moon and distant stars, while the 12.5-inch Newtonian telescope offers a vibrant eye on the night sky. The Observatory is operated several nights a week, weather permitting, and is always complimentary to Canyon of the Eagles resort guests. Public Star Parties, hosted monthly by the Austin Astronomical Society, feature additional astronomical equipment from the Society’s private collection. The remaining dates for 2016 are September 10, October 1, November 19, and December 17 at sundown. View the schedule here. Canyon of the Eagles, 16942 FM 2341, Burnet.

Stargazing at the Roughs (Cedar Creek): Several times each year, McKinney Roughs Nature Park offers opportunities for the whole family to explore the galaxy together. An astronomer will take you on a tour of the Milky Way that is truly out of this world. Behold the wonder of the cosmos through Dobsonian telescopes and venture beyond the boundaries of our planet. Learn about the legends of the constellations and marvel at the beauty and mystery of the universe in this spectacular FREE program. Check the website for upcoming programs. McKinney Roughs Nature Park, 1884 State Highway 71 West, Cedar Creek.

Fountainwood Observatory

Fountainwood Observatory

Fountainwood Observatory (Georgetown): Southwestern’s large reflecting telescope is used by faculty and students for research. FREE public programs are conducted monthly during the academic year. The following dates remain for 2016: September 17, October 8, November 5 and December 3 from 8-10:30 p.m. The Observatory is located on the northeast side of campus, adjacent to the Rockwell Baseball Field. Southwestern University, 1001 E University Ave, Georgetown.

Westcave Star Party (Round Mountain): Take a tour of the night skies at Westcave Preserve, a dark sky location convenient to the Austin area. Star Party nights are an ideal opportunity to enjoy an evening gazing at the stars through a high-quality telescope. With local astronomers on hand to answer questions, you’ll be delighted and amazed by what you see and learn. Registration is required and spots fill quickly. Upcoming 2016 Star Party dates are: September 24 from 8-10 p.m., October 22 from 7-9 p.m., November 19 from 6-8 p.m., and December 3 from 6-8 p.m. Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center, 24814 Hamilton Pool Rd., Round Mountain.

Austin Astronomical Society: AAS hosts several public star parties throughout the year at locations throughout the greater Austin area. You can check their schedule here. Interested in hosting your very own star party? AAS is available upon request to provide astronomy equipment and operators for other groups, schools, or other service organizations (based on member availability and weather conditions). Find the request form here.

Planetarium shows:

Starry Nights at Girlstart: Girlstart’s STEM Studio and Mini-Planetarium is a unique space for families to explore astronomy. Starry Nights are held the 1st Thursday of every month (except January, June, July and August), with each month featuring a new astronomy experience and related hands-on activities. Remaining dates for 2016 are: October 6, November 3, and December 1 from 5:30-7 p.m. FREE! Girlstart, 1400 W Anderson Ln, Austin.

Texas Museum of Science and Technology (Cedar Park): Planetarium shows are offered daily, including Kids Shows geared toward children 1-7 years old. Roughly every other show starts with a 10-20 minute live star show with a trained astronomer. Admission to the planetarium is covered under the general admission ticket. (Note that admission will be FREE for Austin Museum Day on September 18, 2016). There is also a FREE Star Party in the parking lot every Friday, weather permitting, from 9-10 p.m. See the Museum calendar for details. TXMOST, 1220 Toro Grande Dr, Cedar Park.

Mayborn Science Theater (Killeen): This planetarium utilizes a 30-meter dome to project enormous images in high definition. On the dome, in almost complete darkness, the night sky can be projected to a level of detail that no modern city-dweller will ever see because of light pollution. The sky can be portrayed from any point on earth, any day and any point in time. Shows take place every weekend. On the last Saturday of every month, the staff astronomer leads a fascinating Night Sky Tour, pointing out all the astronomical events and constellations visible during the coming month, and explaining them in plain ol’ Texas English. Find pricing here. Mayborn Science Theater, 6200 W Central TX Expy, Killeen.

Bonus fun for astronomy buffs:

Astronomy on Tap Astronomy on Tap ATX is held on the third Tuesday of every month. Organized by professional astronomers, each month features talks by scientists and professors discussing the last, greatest, and most interesting discoveries in the world of astronomy. Plus, astronomy in the news, trivia, prizes, and free stuff. All ages are welcome. FREE! The North Door, 502 Brushy St, Austin.

About the Author

Emily D
In her life before kids, Emily held jobs as a zookeeper, a middle school teacher, and a tour bus driver in the wilds of Montana--not one of which prepared her for the adventures of motherhood. Now she’s living the good life in Austin with her husband, two sons and a Great Dane. When she’s not off gallivanting with her boys, you might find Emily baking up a mean batch of cupcakes, recalling obscure 80s song lyrics, or dreaming of peace and quiet.