MGO - McDonald Geodetic Observatory

MGO logolocation of the MGO on a map of the world

The McDonald Geodetic Observatory (MGO) is located near Ft. Davis, Texas and is co-located with a number of astronomical observatories. The site has been a pioneering site for lunar and satellite laser ranging development since the 1960s. The University of Texas at Austin developed and tested the first Transportable Laser Ranging System (TLRS-1) at the site during the late 1970s and early 1980s. The first acquisition of LAGEOS by the MLRS occurred in August, 1981, and the first lunar acquisition occurred in August, 1983. In 1988, MLRS was relocated from its original location between Mt. Locke and Mt. Fowlkes to its current site on Mt. Fowlkes.

A permanent GNSS receiver is co-located at the McDonald site. A VLBA site is located approximately 8 km from the system. A VLBI system was located near that site but stopped operations in the 1980s.

Telescopes at McDonald Observatory

Telescopes at McDonald Observatory (Image credit: The University of Texas McDonald Observatory)

Recent news:

Lightning strikes the McDonald Laser Ranging Station (MLRS) in Texas

Lightning struck the McDonald Laser Ranging Station (MLRS) in Texas on September 12, 2019 rendering it inoperable. The SGP is currently building a next generation SGSLR station next to the MLRS, and has decided to not repair the 37-year-old MLRS. The MLRS first started operating in 1982 and quickly became a premiere satellite and lunar laser ranging station. Data from this station was used for the most stringent tests of General Relativity, studies of the interior structure of the moon, and countless other geodetic and spacecraft tracking applications. The SGP looks forward to continuing the legacy of laser ranging from the McDonald Observatory and entering a new chapter with the recently completed VGOS station located just down the hill from the MLRS.

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