From the Board of Visitors Executive Committee


Board of Visitors Chair Wayne Alexander

BoV Chair's Message:
Transition, Anniversary highlight the importance of the Board of Visitors

This year is a momentous one for McDonald Observatory, with the Board of Visitors playing an important role.

David Lambert's Leadership
As announced in late 2012, Dr. David Lambert will retire from the directorship of McDonald Observatory in 2014. (Please see “BoV Chair's Message: Honoring David Lambert's Decade of Leadership,” by Randy Henry, November 2012) . That date seemed far away when it was announced, but it is rapidly approaching.

David Lambert, in a cowboy hardhat at the HET tracker removal, October 2013

Serving as Observatory Director (and previously as Astronomy Department Chair) over the last 13 years, David Lambert has created a powerful legacy, which will be capped off by the Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment.

We are lucky that he will remain active as a faculty member and researcher at the University of Texas at Austin, taking part in the discoveries of HETDEX, using Astronomy Department Chair Dan Jaffe’s soon-to-be-installed iGrins instrument on the 107-inch Harlan J. Telescope, and continuing his amazingly productive scientific leadership.

I look forward to celebrating all that Dr. Lambert has accomplished at our July 2014 BoV meeting.

Welcoming a new Director
The new McDonald Observatory Director, Taft Armandroff, who been Director of the Keck Observatory in Hawaii since 2006, introduced himself by video at the February 2014 Board of Visitors meeting. He’ll be assuming his new duties as of the first of June.

To see Dr. Armandroff’s video from that meeting, you'll need a username (bovmeeting) and password (mcdonald). If you're using MacOS, the video won't load in the Safari browser; instead use Firefox or Chrome. The video available at the following link:

Taft Armandroff

Taft Armandroff video from the February 2014 Board of Visitors Meeting

You can also see the press release, Leading Astronomer Taft Armandroff Appointed New Director of McDonald Observatory for more detail.

The Board of Visitors will be crucial to Dr. Armandroff’s success (as it has been for the success of his predecessors). I and other members of the Executive Committee look forward to learning in working detail about his vision for the future of McDonald Observatory and the Texas Astronomy program, and we look forward to giving him our strong support. I urge each and every member of the BoV to join in.

McDonald Observatory’s 75th Anniversary
Other events of note for 2014 include the ongoing celebration of the 75th anniversary of McDonald Observatory.

Since the inaugural evening last October (please see “Bash Kicks Off 75th-Anniversary Celebration with Blanton Talk,” for video of Frank Bash's talk at the UT Austin Blanton Museum), there have been 12 separate events in Austin, Fort Davis, Houston, Midland, Abilene, San Antonio, Laredo, and Fort Worth). These include an Observatory open house, free to the public, on Saturday, April 26.

Texas Astronomers who have given their time for this important outreach effort include Tom Barnes, Frank Bash, Fritz Benedict, Niv Drory, Karl Gebhardt, Matthew Shetrone, and Craig Wheeler. We owe them great thanks -- their talks have helped us make connections with hundreds of new people throughout Texas. In the last week of April and the first week of May there will several more offerings.

On April 30th, there will be a special science talk by Dr. Daniel Jaffe at the Bullock Texas State History Museum’s Spirit Theatre, preceded by a reception in the museum’s third-floor rotunda and a preview of “The McDonald Observatory: 75 Years of Stargazing,” a new exhibition on the history of the observatory. You can see more about Dr. Jaffe's upcoming talk at: McDonald Observatory and the Breakthrough Science of the Future.

Highlights of the exhibition include the Carnegie image tube used to detect water on Mars and the first color photograph of Mars ever published (the latter provided by BoV member John Cotton of Dallas), along with the Otto Struve Telescope model, on loan from Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, Ohio.

From Time magazine: Gerard Kuiper's color photo of Mars, taken with the McDonald 82-inch telescope -- said to be the first color photo of the planet ever published

All BoV members are welcome. For those who can't make it on April 30, the exhibition will be on display from May 1 until June 29. You find more at the museum’s web site, at:

The McDonald Observatory: 75 Years of Stargazing

The next night, Thursday, May 1, Dr. David Lambert will be a featured speaker at a special 75th-anniversary event hosted by the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, as part of their series called “The Lab.” Dr. Lambert’s talk will start at 7 p.m.

You can find more at the following link:

Cosmic: In Partnership with McDonald Observatory

Reservations for free attendance at the Perot Museum event (including a special reception starting at 6 p.m.) are available for BoV members up until 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 29; email mcd75Dallas@astro.as.utexas.edu.

And there is more: Dr. Lambert will also be speaking at a luncheon at Paris Junior College on Friday, May 2.

Paris, as you will recall, was the home of William Johnson McDonald, the banker and philanthropist who left his estate to The University of Texas to found an observatory on his death in 1926. McDonald Observatory's first telescope, the 82-inch reflector, was dedicated on May 5, 1939.

You will be getting updates from me throughout the year about significant projects McDonald and the Department have underway that will further us toward the goal of having the top ranked Department of Astronomy of any public university. And the BOV will have a role to play in each and every one of them.

As the Chair of the Board of Visitors since last September, and as a member of the BoV Executive Committee for seven years, I have witnessed and grown to greatly appreciate the generosity, loyalty, energy and enormous benefits that the members of our group give in support of the BoV’s mission. Lets all look for opportunities that will enable us to do even more going forward. These are exciting times.

[Wayne Alexander, Chair, Board of Visitors]

April 2014
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