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General Information

Address

23610 Hamilton Rd.
Dripping Springs, TX
78620
Map & Directions

Travis County Parks

Reimers Observatory

 

Nightsky photo
Photo by Cooper Miller

 

“So let us choose a clear moonless night in some secluded spot with a clear view in all directions, away from the lights and glare of cities and highways. Here the heavens are revealed in unforgettable grandeur seldom, if ever, glimpsed by the city dweller. Here we are face to face with the beauty, the wonder, and the mystery of creation.” – Robert Burnham, Jr.



Welcome to Reimers Observatory, a public facility operated by Travis County Parks. Our observatory is located at Reimers Ranch Park, approximately 25 miles southwest of Austin, Texas. We offer public astronomy programs suitable for people of all ages. At Reimers Ranch Park, you have the opportunity to see a star-filled sky without needing to drive to a remote site far from home. Come and learn about the universe while viewing it with your own eyes. We operate two large telescopes, one 25-inches in diameter and another 15-inches in diameter. Observatory staff will discuss the science behind what we see, as well as tell some of the ancient stories of star lore. We use laser pointers to show you the constellations, planets, points of interest in the Milky Way, and even satellites passing overhead. Each program lasts about two hours.

Calendar of Upcoming Events That Are Still Accepting Reservations

DateTimeObjects of Interest
Friday, February 24, 2017 7:00 - 9:00 pm Gas clouds, star clusters, faint distant galaxies
Friday, March 3, 2017 7:00 - 9:00pm Craters on Moon*, star clusters
Friday, March 17, 2017 8:30-10:30 pm Gas clouds, star clusters, faint distant galaxies
     
     
     

* When the moon is visible, we can view craters but other objects in the sky will be more difficult to see.

Reservations, Fees, Cancellations

We limit the number of participants in each program to maintain the quality of the visitor experience. Reservations are required to attend an observatory program. You can make a reservation by clicking on the reservation link shown below.

While there is no fee to make a reservation, we do charge a park entrance fee and an additional per person fee, payable with cash or local check when you arrive at the park just before the program starts.

1. Typical park entrance fee - $10 per vehicle.

2. Additional per person fee -  $5 per person.

Visitors 11 years old and younger have their per person fees waived. 

Remember, we do not accept credit or debit cards.


Once you pay your fees at the park, there are no refunds. The permits are not transferable to other nights. We cannot control the weather and do not guarantee clear skies. We suggest you look at the weather forecast and decide whether to come to the park. In the event of cloudy skies, observatory staff will still be present to talk to the visitors and to wait for possible breaks in the clouds. Although we do not charge a fee to make a reservation, we do request that you send a courtesy email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you decide to cancel.

Make A Reservation

We limit the number of participants for each program to maintain the quality of the visitor experience. If you would like to attend a program, please choose a date from the table above and make a reservation by clicking on this link:

Click here to make an observatory reservation

Observatory
Photo by Jonathan Jackson

What To Expect When You Attend a Program

1. You’ll stop at the Reimers Ranch Park entrance fee booth to pay your fees. Remember, we accept cash but not credit or debit cards.

2. Try to arrive on time. We orient guests to the facilities and the telescopes at the beginning of the program.

3. Park in the Mountain Biking Parking Lot. There is a restroom with flush toilets there. The observatory is about 70 yards away, an easy stroll down the lighted sidewalk.

4. The observatory is open to the night air, so dress accordingly. The telescopes will be inside the walls of the building, but the roof will roll away to expose the night sky. The building serves both as shelter for the telescopes and as a classroom. Benches for sitting line the walls. Almost all of the activities will occur inside the building.

5. Viewing through the 25-inch telescope usually requires the visitor to climb a set of stairs, while using the smaller telescope typically allows the guest to remain standing on the floor of the observatory, although a small step ladder is provided in case it is needed.

6. The use of white flashlights is not permitted in the observatory, although you can use them outside the observatory as you walk back to your vehicle. Red flashlights are permitted, but only if they are pointed down at the ground so as not to hinder other visitors from adjusting to the dark. Most visitors do not need flashlights at all in the observatory once they adjust to the dark.

7. Consider bringing your binoculars.  They provide an excellent way to explore the night sky.

8. The programs last about two hours. You are free to leave the premises before the program ends.

Additional Observatory and Park Rules

1. Smoking is prohibited.

2. Application of insect repellent is prohibited inside the observatory building, but is permitted outside the building.

3. No white flashlights are permitted inside the observatory building.

4. Camping is not allowed at Reimers Ranch Park.  All areas of the park, other than the observatory, close after sunset.

Observatory Programs for Private Groups

Reimers Observatory is also available for private groups. Contact staff at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to learn about availability. The fee for a private program is the park’s per vehicle park entrance fee, plus a $200 fee for a two hour program. Each additional hour costs an additional $50. The suggested maximum group size is 30 people.

The telescope
Photo by Tim Speyrer

What Can You See Through the Telescopes?

Common objects viewed through both telescopes over the course of a year are craters on the Moon, rings of Saturn, clouds on Jupiter, moons of Jupiter, comets, star clusters, gas clouds giving birth to new stars, gas clouds created by dying stars, and distant galaxies millions of light years away. Keep in mind that which objects we can see on any particular night depends on which objects are in the sky on that evening. Over the course of a year, we can see all of these objects listed above. When a bright Moon is in the sky, the moonlight will drown out many objects, but we’ll be treated with fantastic views of craters on the Moon.

Current Sky Events To Watch For

Venus in February Evenings: Look for bright Venus in the southwestern sky 30 minutes to two hours after sunset. It appears each evening in February as an extraordinarily bright star-like object in the twilight, so bright you can see it from the city. Although it resembles a star when you look at it without a telescope, Venus is actually a planet about the same size as Earth. While Earth is the third planet from the Sun, Venus is the second planet, so it is our next door neighbor in the solar system. Many years ago people speculated that Venus was Earth’s twin, but modern measurements show that its climate is very different. It is has a runaway greenhouse effect that causes its surface temperature to hover around 870 degrees Fahrenheit. In late March, Venus will pass between the Earth and the Sun and will be lost in the Sun’s glare until it reappears in the morning sky in early April.

History of Reimers Observatory

Reimers Observatory opened in March 2015. It was funded by a Travis County bond that both purchased Reimers Ranch parkland and allowed for improvements inside the park. The observatory idea was very popular during the public meetings about the future of the park. Since it opened, dozens of programs have been given to park visitors. The many hundreds of visitors who have come to the programs have experienced the starry skies of Reimers Ranch Park and enjoyed views through our large telescopes.

The observatory has two telescopes.  A 25-inch Obsession telescope on a dobsonian mount, as well as a similar, but smaller, 15-inch telescope.

The observatory, however, is more than just a place to look through telescopes. It is an educational facility that serves all people, young and old, interested in learning about their place in the cosmos. Bring your questions. The observatory operators are experienced astronomy educators and are eager to answer your questions.