University of Texas, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History

A Guide to the UT McDonald Observatory Records

Descriptive Summary

Creator: UT McDonald Observatory
Title: UT McDonald Observatory Records
Dates: 1971-1999
Abstract: The McDonald Observatory Records provide a partial administrative history of the facility since about 1971, with the bulk of the records centered on programs, research projects, and publications from the 1970s.
OCLC No.: 965447713
Extent: 4 feet
Language: Materials are written in English.
Repository: Dolph Briscoe Center for American History,The University of Texas at Austin

Historical Note

McDonald Observatory is a research unit of The University of Texas at Austin. Observatory facilities are located atop Mount Locke and Mount Fowlkes in the Davis Mountains of West Texas, which offer some of the darkest night skies in the continental United States. The observatory's administrative offices are on the UT Austin campus. The observatory works with the University's Department of Astronomy on both research and teaching.

Funded initially with money bequeathed by Texan William Johnson McDonald, the observatory was established as a collaboration between UT and the University of Chicago in 1932. Russian-born astronomer Otto Struve designed the original structure and served as the observatory's first director. A second period of major expansion commenced in 1963 with the appointment of Harlan J. Smith as chair of the UT Astronomy Department and director of the McDonald Observatory.

Telescopes at the McDonald Observatory: With its 9.2-meter (362-inch) mirror, the Hobby-Eberly Telescope is one of the world's largest optical telescopes. It is optimized for spectroscopy, the decoding of light from stars and galaxies to study their properties. The HET, dedicated in 1997, is a joint project of The University of Texas at Austin, The Pennsylvania State University, Stanford University, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, and Georg-August-Universität Göttingen. The Harlan J. Smith Telescope, constructed 1966-68, has a 2.7-meter (107-inch) mirror, which was the third largest in the world when built. The Otto Struve Telescope, built between 1933 and 1939, was the first major telescope to be built at McDonald Observatory. Its 2.1-meter (82-inch) mirror was the second largest in the world at the time. McDonald also operates a 0.8-meter (30-inch) telescope, and the 0.8-meter (30-inch) Ranging Telescope Laser that measures the distance between earth and the moon and tracks the drift of earth's continents.

Scope and Contents

The McDonald Observatory Records provide a partial administrative history of the facility since about 1971, with the bulk of the records centered on programs, research projects, and publications from the 1970s.


Access Restrictions

These records are stored off-site at CDL. Please contact repository in advance for retrieval.

Related Material

See also the Harlan J. Smith Papers.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

UT McDonald Observatory Records, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

Detailed Description of the Papers



2005-102/1 Harlan J. Smith:
Frank Bash circular announcing Smith's death and proposed memorial service
Evans - 11th Texas Symposium
Department personnel
Vita, committees
Department general procedures
Department brochure
Seminars and colloquia
Meetings facilities
McDonald Observatory post-doctoral fellowship
Observing Schedule
Contracts Grants
National Science Foundation University Science Development Program – Grant, 1958
University of Texas – Offices/Contacts
University of Texas – Procedures/Facilities
Duties – Harlan J. Smith Secretary
Annual reports
Richard Matzner
Isolated documents concerning Richard Matzner, a member of the first eclipse team in 1973, a faculty member of the Austin Relativity Group
Occultation of B Sco by Jupiter, May 13, 1971
R.G. Tull, G.W. van Critters, R.E. Nather, D.S. Evans, D.C. Wells, B. Warner missing, primary observers
Group photograph, includes W.B. Hubbard, before embarkation on Regents’ airplane, Austin Mueller Airport
Tull, van Critters, Wells, Nather, and Warner with instrument cases amid personal luggage
Evans, D.S. Occultation of B Sco by Jupiter, May 13, 1971: National Geographic Society Research Reports, 1 2, 203, 1971
Evans, D.S. and Hubbard, W.B. Jupiter and Beta Scorpii, Sky and Tel., 4 2, 1, 1971
Hubbard, W.B., Nather, R.E., Evans, D.S., Tull, R.G., Wells, D.C., van Critters, G.W., Warner, B., and Vanden Bout, P., The Occultation of Beta Scorpii by Jupiter and Io: I, Astron. J. 77, 41, 1972
Bartholdi, P. and Owen, F., Ibid., II, Astron. J., 7 7, 60, 1972
Hubbard, W.B. and van Flandern, T.C. , Ibid., III, Astron. J., 7 7, 65, Astrometry, 1972
Evans, D.S. and Hubbard, W.B., Discrepancies in Measurements of the Jupiter Atmospheric Scale Height, Nature Phys., 2 4 0, 162, 1972
Reminiscences by Evans, D.S., Nather, R.E., Tull, R.G., van Critters, G.W. (document pack, as issued to observers)
Evans, D.S., Africano, J.L., Fekel, F.C., Montemayor, T., Palm, C., Silverberg, E., van Critters, G.W. and Wiant, J., Occultation Study of the Multiple Star B Scorpii, Astron. J., 82, 495, 1977
Sandmann, W.H. Occultation Observations of B Scorpii, Astron. J., 82, 503, 1977
Evans, D.S., Elliot, J.L., and Peterson, D.M. Occultation Astrometry of the Beta Scorpii System, Astron. J., 8 3, 438, 1978
Eclipse Expeditions, 1973
National Center for Atmospheric Research File: Advisory circulars and correspondence to institutions participating in 1973 eclipse expeditions from National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), body designated for general USA supervision, and related correspondence
Personal records
Journals of Survey and Main Expedition Leader, Bryce de Witt
Journal and souvenirs of Main Team member, Charles Cobb
Correspondence of organizer and follow-up team member, Al Mikesell
Document pack of follow-up team member, David S. Evans
Miscellaneous relevant documents
Proof copy of intended semi-popular account entitled “Harlan’s Globetrotters”
Miscellaneous documents, printed papers and photographic negatives, including text of the obituary notice of Harlan Smith
Rededication of 82-inch to Otto Struve, May 28, , includes photograph of assembly in 82-inch dome, cloth used in unveiling plaque, signed visitors’ book, specimen identifying ribbons, program of symposium, final report for NSF grant 1966
Arabic Texts: problems of ownership and copyright, “Arabic Texts,” believed titles of documents copied, copied material from Mosque Library at Chinguetti
Miscellaneous documents related to celebration of 50th anniversary, including symposium, 1989
1973 Eclipse Expeditions, personal correspondence of Burton F. Jones
2005-102/2 Program of innovative lecture course by R. Edward Nather
Big and Bright, semi-popular history of the early years
Site selection: miscellaneous documents connected with site selection for the observatory
Arabic texts
Proposal by Cecile de Witt to copy manuscripts from Chinguetti Mosque Library
Extracts from Bryce de Witt’s journal describing activity and implied consent of Imam
Problems of ownership and copyright
“Arabic Texts,” believed titles of documents copied
Copied material
1973 Eclipse
Miscellaneous documents concerning extended consultations with Kodak, Rochester about photographic emulsions and selection of plate size and glass type to be used at the eclipse
Follow-Up Eclipse Expedition: Unsorted documents mainly related to finances of 1973 follow-up eclipse expedition
Newspaper clippings and stories
Endowed professorships and memorials in Astronomy Department at U.T. Austin
Documents from era of Chicago control
Documents relating to Roman Smoluchovski, distinguished post-retirement adjunct faculty member
2005-102/3 Millimeter and Radio Astronomy
Grants in aid of 1973 Eclipse
1973 Eclipse expeditions instrument and site selection: General correspondence with many individuals, especially with Princeton and its withdrawal from the project
Gravitational Deflection of Light
Dyson, Sir F.W., Eddington, A.S., and Davidson, C.: A Determination of the Deflection of Light by the Sun’s Gravitational Field, from Observations made at the Total Solar Eclipse of May 29, 1919: Mem. Roy. Astron. Soc., 2 2 0, 291, 1920
Von Kluber, H., Determination of Einstein’s Light-Deflection in the Gravitational Field of the Sun, Vistas in Astronomy, 3, 47, 1960
Texas Mauritanian Eclipse Team, Gravitational Deflection of Light: Solar Eclipse of 30 June 1973, I, Description of Procedures and Final Results, Aston. J., 81, 452, 1976
Jones, Burton F., Gravitational Deflection of Light: Solar Eclipse of 30 June 1973, II, Plate Reductions, Astron. J., 8 1, 455, 1976
References from “Harlan’s Globetrotters”
Draft texts of items above
De Witt, B.S., Matzner, R.A., and Mikesell, A.H., A Relativity Eclipse Experiment Refurbished, Sky and Tel., 4 7, 301, 1974
Baily, F. On a Remarkable Phenomenon that Occurs in Total and Annular Eclipses of the Sun, Mem. Roy. Astron. Soc., 1 0, 1, 1838