Afraid of Losing the Dark

The McDonald Observatory, celebrating its seventy-fifth anniversary this year, forges ahead with groundbreaking research and crusades to keep the night skies of West Texas pristine and unadulterated.
Thu January 9, 2014 12:00 pm
Otto Struve Telescope and the Milky Way McDonald Observatory, Fort Davis, Texas.
Clark Crenshaw

Seventy-five years ago, on May 5, 1939, a group of the world’s preeminent astronomers trekked out to the Davis Mountains to attend the dedication of the McDonald Observatory’s first telescope, the second-largest in the world at the time, boasting an 82-inch, 4,200-pound Pyrex mirror cast from molten glass. A more dapper crew has probably never assembled among the succulents and scrub of West Texas: the 39 men—most wearing three-piece suits and clutching their felt fedoras—and one woman were photographed in front of the building housing the telescope. “The energy of the stars surpass all imagination,” Otto Struve, the Russian American astronomer who served as the observatory’s first director,

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