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All About Stargazing in the Hill Country

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When my twins were young, a favorite pastime was to lie on the trampoline in the backyard, listen to the crickets, and stargaze. Those times were especially nice as the crisp, cool air settled in and the night sky changed. The expansive sky of the Texas Hill Country is the perfect place to enjoy the beauty of the heavens.

Some might prefer to stargaze in the backyard lying on a blanket or from a favorite chair while others prefer to go on a night hike or attend a “star party” at one of the state parks. Perhaps taking the time to travel to one of the three telescopes that are located in the Texas Hill Country might also be an option. No matter the preference, winter evenings in the Hill Country are beautiful, so take some time to enjoy!

Stargazing at State Parks

Stargazing in the Hill Country

Photo: pexels.com

“One of our most valued attributes in Texas is its natural beauty,” said Texas State Parks Director Brent Leisure. “This beauty is not limited to the light of day, but extends into the night sky where Texans can enjoy a front-row seat to the splendor of the universe.”

Stargazing in the Hill Country

Photo: tpwd.texas.gov

Texas Parks & Wildlife, the McDonald Observatory, the International Dark Sky Association, and local astronomy groups have teamed up to help preserve the night skies in Texas. In order to do that, the parks schedule events such as Starry Sky Night Hikes, Night Sky Parties, and Stories in the Stars. For the Hill Country, Inks Lake State Park in Burnet and Guadalupe State Park in Spring Branch offer such opportunities.

Inks Lake Park hosts activities like the Starry Sky Night Hike, the Midnight Summit Hike on New Year’s Eve, and the Night Sky Party. The Starry Sky Night Hike is 2.5 miles of trail meeting at Pecan Flats trailhead. New Year’s Eve there will be a Midnight Summit Hike on the new Devil’s Backbone Trail. Bundle up and bring your blanket and binoculars for the Night Sky Party.

Guadalupe State Park offers Stories in the Stars, another way to feast on the beauty of the Texas sky.

International Dark Sky Park

Stargazing in the Hill Country

Photo: Sergio Garcia Rill

Two Dark Sky Parks and two Dark Sky Communities make their homes in Texas. The two communities are both in the Hill Country:  Dripping Springs and Horseshoe Bay. Of the two parks, only one is in the Hill Country and that is Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. The designation is given by the International Dark Sky Association and encourages limiting the use of artificial lights to keep the sky dark and to increase the visibility in the night sky. According to the Bortle Scale, the Milky Way is visible to stargazers at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area.

Public Access to Telescopes

Stargazing in the Hill Country

Photo: canyonoftheeagles.com

Finally, if traveling to one of the three telescopes in the Hill Country sounds appealing, them they can be found at the University of Texas Austin campus, the Scobee Education Center and Planetarium in San Antonio, and the Eagle Eye Observatory at Canyon of the Eagles Resort in Burnet.

The University of Texas Austin campus offers three nights a week for public use of the telescope:  Wednesdays at R.L.M. Hall and Fridays and Saturdays at Painter Hall.

The Scobee Education Center and Planetarium also opens to the public during certain times. However, the Planetarium is currently closed until mid-January.

Canyon of the Eagles Resort in Burnet offers guests’ access to the Eagle Eye Observatory. The resort and the Austin Astronomical Society also offer once-a-month access to the public.

As the temperatures dip, bundle up and enjoy the cool crisp air with someone special. Enjoy the outdoors and the beauty of the Texas Hill Country sky!

Reference: Texas Parks & Wildlife