Believe it or not, Texas boasts some of the “darkest” skies in the United States — meaning that our great state contains an abundance of areas that provide optimal visibility of stars, planets, constellations, meteorites, and other astronomical phenomenon. Austin may be growing exponentially right now, which automatically means that we’re creating increasing levels of light pollution, but when you compare our fair city to other huge Texas metropolises like Dallas and Houston, our night sky visibility is actually pretty good.
With that in mind, we decided to publish an Austin stargazing guide to clue locals in to some of the best (and worst) places to stargaze and watch meteor showers, along with several tips for selecting the best viewpoints and tracking weather conditions to get the best visibility.
If you’re thinking about stargazing at Mount Bonnell, Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve, St. Edward’s University, Zilker Park, or even the Loop 360 Bridge Overlook — all of which are problematic due to light pollution or APD’s tendency to cite trespassers after hours — we seriously recommend that you consider one of these 10 amazing Austin stargazing viewpoints instead:
1.) UNIVERSITY OBSERVATORY star parties
The University of Texas at Austin, Austin Community College, and Southwestern University all host public star viewings at their respective observatories. At these events, you’ll get the chance to look at the night sky from the best viewpoints our fair city has to offer — and through epic expensive telescopes to boot!
UT houses two observatories — one located on the top roof of Robert Lee Moore Hall, which is generally open to the public on Wednesday nights while school is in session, and another at Painter Hall, which welcomes guests on Fridays and Saturdays during the regular school year. ACC and SU schedule public star viewing nights only every once in a while, so you should check their astronomy departments’ event calendars for updated information before you go.
2.) Local PLANETARIUMS
The Texas Museum of Science and Technology and Girlstart both offer interactive displays and educational shows aimed at teaching star enthusiasts of all ages about the wonders of the night sky in their planetariums. TMST maintains a full lineup of programs, each of which runs roughly 50 minutes long and features a “live star show” with a trained astronomer; view their current event schedule here. Girlstart’s “Starry Night” schedule is more limited, so be sure to check their website for current event dates and times.
Additionally, Eagle Eye Observatory at Canyon of the Eagles Resort in Burnet and Mayborne Science Theater in Killeen are also well known for hosting awesome astronomy events if you’re willing to make the drive.