You might be surprised to learn that opportunities for stargazing abound here in the heart of Texas–even in the center of the city. Check out these top spots for stargazing in and around Austin.
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 2017 sessions are Wednesday nights September 6 – November 1 from 8-10:00 p.m. and November 8 – December 6 from 7-9:00 p.m. (excluding November 22). 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 2017 sessions are Friday and Saturday nights, September 8 – November 4 from 8-10:00 p.m. and November 10 – December 9 from 7-9:00 p.m. (excluding November 24 & 25). 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 2017 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 2017 are September 23, October 14, November 11, and December 9 at sundown. View the schedule here. Public star parties are FREE and open to all, however, park entry fees apply. 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 (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 2017: September 16, October 28, November 4, and December 9 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 2017/18 Star Party dates are: September 16 from 8-10:00 p.m., October 21 from 7:30-9:30 p.m., November 11 from 6-8:00 p.m., December 9 from 6-8:00 p.m., January 6 from 6:30-8:30 p.m., and February 3 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. $15 adult (18+); $5 child (4-17); children 3 and under are FREE. 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.
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 2017 are: October 5, November 2, and December 7 from 5:30-7:00 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. There is also a FREE Star Party in the parking lot every Friday, weather permitting, from 9-10:00 p.m. See the Museum calendar for details. Please note: TXMOST is closed for maintenance through September 22, 2017. 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.