So what did we do our night in Marfa? Browsing through travel literature when we were in Marathon, Texas a week earlier, we discovered a mention that the McDonald Observatory was in the vicinity and offers tours. Thrilling news for us! We could use their telescopes to look into the Milky Way – to look thousands or perhaps millions of light years back in time. We knew we had to find a way to make it happen. A little research revealed that the Observatory offers Star Parties on Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday nights. So, we arranged to drive the 30 miles from Marfa the next Friday night.
If you live in a city as we did, you rarely see many stars and never see the Milky Way. Few places now exist in the US where the night sky darkens enough to see stars. Light pollution is the culprit. We have loved seeing so many stars from the remote places we’ve been on this trip, and the Star Party at the McDonald Observatory’s viewing of the night sky would far exceed anything we’d seen before.
The evening program started at dusk. Several hundred people gathered in the outdoor circular theatre. The astronomer pointed out major constellations, stars and planets with a powerful laser pointer. The presentation was informative and kept everyone’s attention. At the end, as darkness truly settled into the night sky, he explained that a number of telescopes had been set up for us to view the Orion Nebula, Jupiter with rings and four of its moons, the middle star in Orion’s sword, M51, and M81 + M82.
We all stood patiently in line and waited our turn, thrilled for the opportunity we’d come from so far away to see.