Help Bring the McDonald Observatory’s Struve Telescope Model Home to Texas


The McDonald Observatory is a Texas landmark that evokes emotion in all who see it. To me, the bright white telescope domes nestled in the Davis Mountains represent inspiration, education, and — perhaps most importantly — exploration. An Indigogo campaign has been launched to celebrate the Observatory’s 75th anniversary; here is how you can be a part of it all.

Mc Donald Observatory wants to bring the 82″ Otto Struve telescope model home to Texas. For the past 25 years it has been in Ohio, where it was built. If this campaign succeeds, “the model will be put on display at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin in an exhibit celebrating [McDonald Observatory’s] 75th anniversary. The exhibit will include a letter from president Lyndon B. Johnson about the dedication of the Observatory, as well as other never-before-seen pieces from the history of the McDonald Observatory and its 75-year Texas story.”

Why is it important to bring this model back? I think that my friend since high school, Kevin Mace — a Systems Administrator II at McDonald Observatory — explains it best:

I’ve seen the model of the 82″ Otto Struve telescope once, a few years before I started working at the Observatory, back in 1989 when it was at the visitors center at McDonald Observatory during the 50th anniversary celebration. It was on display in the middle of the then-visitors center (now our staff offices since the construction of the new visitors center in 2002), and two McDonald staffers were working on the model to get it back up to working condition. I remember being impressed with the extraordinary detail of its construction.
Aside from appreciating its similarity to the actual telescope on Mount Locke, which I’ve been fortunate to have used many times in the last decade, the model served a much different purpose in the 1930s. It was their visualization technique for an upcoming engineering challenge. Before CAD, before computers, before the capability of sharing ideas globally was possible, this model was the physical embodiment of a vision for a grand new instrument that would – that did – add to the body of knowledge of our universe. We want to bring the model out of storage so that it may be seen again.

Here’s some more information on the actual Struve Telescope.

Still not convinced that you should donate?

Your help with this project will allow access for children and current students to view the telescope model and learn more about its history, the history of the Observatory, and the history of astronomy. It could be this experience that sparks a love for science or engineering in a young mind!


There are many levels at which you can contribute, and some of the perks are pretty cool. A $5 donation gets you a thank you and inclusion on McDonald Observatory’s website donor wall of fame. The $150 level gets you the Observatory’s 50th Anniversary Art Deco poster and digital subscriptions to StarDate radio, McDonald Observatory’s daily podcast and StarDate Magazine, their bi-monthly publication. Kev and I donated at the $250 level, which will get us digital subscriptions to the podcast, and magazine, the 50th Anniversary Art Deco poster, and the new 75th Anniversary poster. We’ve already decided that they will look wonderful in our guest cabin.

mc donald observatory anniversary

You can even go as high as $5,000, which will get you private star party for you and up to 14 others at McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, Texas!

Want to learn more about the McDonald Observatory and the Struve Telescope?

More About Our History

More About Our Anniversary Project

More About the Otto Struve Telescope

You can donate to the campaign by clicking here.

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About the Author

Judie Lipsett Stanford
Judie is the co-owner and Editor-in-Chief of Gear Diary, which she founded in September 2006. She started in 1999 writing software reviews at the now-defunct; from mid-2000 through 2006, she wrote hardware reviews for and co-edited at The Gadgeteer. A recipient of the Sigma Kappa Colby Award for Technology, Judie is best known for her device-agnostic approach, deep-dive reviews, and enjoyment of exploring the latest tech, gadgets, and gear.