McDonald Observatory: The McDonald telescopes are located atop Mount Fowlkes (in the far background) and Mount Locke (in the foreground) in the Davis Mountains of West Texas. The telescopes are used by faculty and students in the University of Texas at Austin’s Astronomy department to study black holes and dark energy among other astronomical phenomena and mysteries.
Credit: The University of Texas McDonald Observatory
My name is Neil Gehrels. I’m the Chief of the Astroparticle Physics Laboratory at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and Principal Investigator on the Swift Gamma-Ray Burst Explorer mission. My research interest is studying supernovae and gamma-ray bursts. I’ve been fascinated with exploding stars for many years.
My dad was an astronomer, so when I was a kid I spent a lot of time in observatories, like Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. When I was six I spent one whole year up on the mountain at McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, Texas. It was a remote site of telescopes with little houses up on the mountain. Actually this was not a great year because every morning we’d get bussed down to the local grade school, which was about an hour’s bus ride away. All the kids were ranchers’ kids and they didn’t seem to like the astronomers’ kids. So that was kind of a rough time but it was really interesting living on a mountain for a year. I’ve been interested in mountains ever since.