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University of Texas Astronomy

Universities / April 8, 2020

The Department of Astronomy at the University of Texas is one of the largest in the United States, with twenty-four active teaching faculty, twelve research scientists, more than twenty-four research associates and postdoctoral fellows, approximately forty-five graduate students, and ninety undergraduate students. The research activities of the faculty and staff span virtually all of modern astronomy, from cosmology, first stars, galaxy formation and evolution, supernovae, black holes, and gamma-ray bursts, to our solar system, extrasolar planetary systems, star and planet formation and evolution, and the interstellar medium.

A low student-teacher ratio ensures close work with faculty and researchers in the student's area of interest. Many faculty members maintain active international collaborations, and frequently use the world's premier ground and space based observatories. Collaborations are also common with groups in physics, aerospace engineering, electrical engineering, computer science, and geological science.

The association between the Department of Astronomy and McDonald Observatory offers many benefits. Graduate students typically receive about 25% of the nights on the two largest telescopes at McDonald, with additional time being granted to their advisors for joint projects. Students doing dissertation research receive high priority on all telescopes.

McDonald Observatory

The Observatory complex is located 450 miles west of Austin in the Davis Mountains, one of the darkest sky areas in the continental United States. At present, there are four primary research telescopes: the 10 m Hobby*Eberly Telescope (HET), 2.7 m Harlan J. Smith Telescope, 2.1 m Otto Struve Telescope, and the 0.8 m Telescope. The HET is an innovative departure from classical telescope design and gathers an enormous amount of light, primarily for spectroscopy.