McDonald Observatory getting new facility

August 21, 2018

FORT DAVIS A new scientific facility is under construction on the grounds of The University of Texas at Austin’s McDonald Observatory.

The facility will help scientists better understand Earth and could help minimize the effects of geohazards such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, sea level changes and landslides, a UT Austin news release stated.

The McDonald Geodetic Observatory is funded by a $4.25 million contract between NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center and UT Austin’s Center for Space Research. Scheduled to begin science operations in 2022, the new observatory will focus on geodesy: the science of Earth’s shape, gravity, and rotation — and how these change over time, the release stated.

“It is gratifying that the foundation of almost 50 years of geodetic observations from McDonald Observatory has attracted a new NASA-funded facility to enable more precise and rich geodetic observations from west Texas,” said Taft Armandroff, director of McDonald Observatory, in a prepared statement.

The McDonald Geodetic Observatory is part NASA’s Space Geodesy Project, the U.S. portion of a global effort to create a “terrestrial reference frame” for scientists. This reference frame will be made up of extremely well-characterized sites around the world — a collection of landmarks that all other locations on Earth can be measured against precisely.

The network will have about 30 locations. The McDonald site is one of three that NASA is building in the United States, the release stated.

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