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Since 1932, the University of Texas McDonald Observatory near Fort Davis has enjoyed nighttime skies as dark as any astronomical research facility in the world. It is home to the largest optical telescope in North America, the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET). Today, use of the observatory is being impacted by skyglow originating from growing oil and gas exploration and production in and around the Permian Basin.
In this presentation, Mr. Wren describes some of the ongoing science at this world class facility and why itís important. He will speak about dark sky friendly lighting practices in general, and particular to activities in the oil and gas fields. He will describe the current status of a project to shield lights on a working rig near Midland, and the consequences for safety and visibility for nighttime operations.
William (Bill) Wren has been fascinated by the night sky all his life. He studied philosophy and educational psychology at the University of Texas. While working as a crisis counselor in Austin for 12 years, he attended courses in the astronomy department at the university, and was an academic tutor for undergraduate students.
In 1990, he started work at the observatory and began a search for extragalactic supernovae. He performed the site survey for the HET and worked as its commissioning telescope operator. He also helped design and build several unique telescopes, one of which is wheelchair accessible and dedicated for public use at the observatoryís visitor center.
Throughout his career at McDonald, he has been involved in protecting our night skies, still a large part of his duties. His greatest satisfaction comes from conveying the wonders of the universe to the many visitors to the observatory.