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Groundbreaking ceremonies set for new Texas Astronomy Education Center at UT Austin’s McDonald Observatory

Groundbreaking ceremonies for The Texas Astronomy Education Center will be held at 4 p.m. on Saturday (July 29). The facility will be built on the grounds of the McDonald Observatory, a research facility of The University of Texas at Austin located 16 miles north of Fort Davis on Highway 118.

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AUSTIN, Texas —Groundbreaking ceremonies for The Texas Astronomy Education Center will be held at 4 p.m. on Saturday (July 29). The facility will be built on the grounds of the McDonald Observatory, a research facility of The University of Texas at Austin located 16 miles north of Fort Davis on Highway 118.

The $7.7 million, 11,000-square-foot Astronomy Education Center is scheduled to open in the fall of 2001. The facility will include a 74-seat orientation theater, classrooms, a telescope park and a star amphitheater. All exhibit materials will be interactive, presented in both Spanish and English, and aimed at visitors of all ages. The museum’s presentations will focus on “decoding starlight,” including the tools such as spectroscopes that astronomers use to understand the universe.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the Astronomy Education Center will be held in conjunction with McDonald Observatory’s annual Board of Visitors meeting on Friday (July 28) and Saturday (July 29). The festivities also mark the 20th anniversary of the opening of the observatory’s W. L. Moody, Jr. Visitors’ Information Center.

Participants will include Dr. Frank Bash, director of McDonald Observatory; Dr. Larry Faulkner, president of UT Austin; State Rep. Pete Gallego of Alpine, Judge Peggy Robertson of the Jeff Davis County Commissioners’ Court; and Lillian Murray, chair of the Board of Visitors. Gallego will be honored for his continuing support for the observatory,

Dr. Khotso Mokhele, president of South Africa’s Foundation for Research Development and other representatives from South Africa will be present, signaling the continued cooperation between McDonald’s Hobby-Eberly Telescope and its future twin, the Southern African Large Telescope. The South African telescope is being built in Sutherland, South Africa.

“Our new Visitors Center is designed especially to tell the people who support us what we do at McDonald Observatory and to excite kids about science and technology using astronomical examples,” said Bash. “These future scientists, engineers and technicians have a very important role to play in the increasingly high-tech future of Texas.”

Christina Castillo-Comer, director of science at the Texas Education Agency, said: “The Texas Astronomy Education Center will no doubt bring the heavens closer to Earth for all Texans. It will serve as a valuable resource to students and educators alike. Teachers will be able to access timely information, lessons and ideas that will bring the knowledge of astronomy to their students in a captivating and knowledgeable fashion.”

For more information, contact Joel Barna at (512) 471-6335 or e-mail: jwbarna@astro.as.utexas.edu

or Sandi Preston at (512) 475-6765 or e-mail: sandi@astro.as.utexas.edu For images, contact Marsha Miller at (512) 471-3151. For additional images and for more McDonald Observatory information, see: http://stardate.utexas.edu/pr/taec_pr.html