West of the Pecos the night skies have long been an iconic element of the landscape, a tradition that dates back centuries to the days of the dreaded Comanche Moon. More recently, the nighttime vistas have been the subject of endless scrutiny by astronomers just 17 miles north of Fort Davis at the world renowned University of Texas McDonald Observatory atop 6,800-foot Mount Locke. Located far from the lights of larger cities and the clouds of coastal Texas, the observatory has four research telescopes and state-of-the-art instrumentation for imaging and spectroscopy. These same reasons have enticed thousands of amateur as well as a good number of professional astronomers to the Texas Star Party, an annual gathering in the Davis Mountains that got its start in 1979 when the Austin Astronomical Society joined forces with the observatory. Held in late April or early May, the Texas Star Party has become so popular that it now ranks as one of the largest gatherings of astronomers in North America.
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