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Leading Astronomer Taft Armandroff Appointed Director of UT’s McDonald Observatory

McDonald Observatory

AUSTIN, Texas  Astronomer Taft Armandroff has been appointed the new director of the College of Natural Sciences McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, Texas.

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McDonald Observatory

Astronomer Taft Armandroff will be the director of the McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, Texas. Credit: Ethan Tweedie/WMKO. 

AUSTIN, Texas  Astronomer Taft Armandroff has been appointed the new director of the College of Natural Sciences McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, Texas.

Armandroff, who is currently director of the W. M. Keck Observatory, located on the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii, will join the university in June.

He succeeds David Lambert, who, as the observatory’s third director, propelled the observatory to national prominence. Lambert will resume his position as a full-time faculty member in the Department of Astronomy.

“The McDonald Observatory is one of the most significant astronomical research facilities in the world, and Taft is well-suited to provide innovative leadership at the observatory and continue to strengthen its role as a key center for discoveries about our universe,” said Linda Hicke, dean of the College of Natural Sciences. “I am delighted that he will be joining our community.”

“I’m tremendously excited to be joining the Texas astronomy program, to develop the McDonald Observatory further with new instrumentation and research programs, and to continue the observatory’s stellar efforts to communicate astronomy discoveries to the public,” said Armandroff. “There are very few places like UT Austin that can boast such a strong astronomy faculty and total access to a facility like the McDonald Observatory. The observatory is also a fantastic resource for graduate and undergraduate students to gain hands-on research experience at the cutting edge.”

Armandroff is a widely recognized research astronomer with a specialty in dwarf spheroidal galaxies, stellar populations in our galaxy and nearby galaxies, and globular clusters.

Prior to joining Keck Observatory in 2006, he worked for 19 years at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) in Tucson, Ariz. During his past five years at NOAO, he held the positions of associate director of NOAO and director of the NOAO Gemini Science Center. Armandroff is a 1982 graduate of Wesleyan University, holding a B.A. in astronomy with high honors. He then continued his studies at Yale University, earning master’s degrees in science and philosophy and a Ph.D. in astronomy.

The McDonald Observatory is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. The observatory is home to multiple telescopes that provide data for a wide range of astronomical research under the darkest night skies of any professional observatory in the continental United States.

The consortium-run Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET), one of the world’s largest telescopes, is now being upgraded to begin the HET Dark Energy Experiment. McDonald Observatory is also an international leader in astronomy education and outreach, connecting with the public through its StarDate radio program and magazine.