Road Trip

These are the best places to stargaze in Texas

Stargazers check out the night sky at McDonald Observatory in Texas.

Photo by Getty Images

San Antonians have long traveled to West Texas to traverse the wilds of Big Bend, embrace the low-key vibes of Terlingua, and cool off in the springs of Balmorhea. We have also understood the magic of standing under the night sky at the McDonald Observatory, crawling through the dark night to take in one of the most beautiful celestial views on earth.

Now, it appears, the rest of the world is uncovering this not-so-hidden gem. A recent research report from U.K.-based travel website Kuoni named the McDonald Observatory, part of the University of Texas at Austin, the second best place to stargaze in the U.S.

To determine the country's top 50 places to see stars, Kuoni analyzed "60 official Dark Sky areas and over 117 locations nationwide which offer the public access to high powered telescopes." The site then sifted through hundreds of TripAdvisor reviews to find the winners.

Located on Fort Davis (not David, as the original press release said — multiple times — before a correction email was sent out), about 25 miles north of tourist destinations like Marfa and Alpine, the McDonald Observatory snagged the No. 2 spot behind Oregon University Observatory in Sunriver, Oregon.

"The reviewers of Texas' McDonald observatory are blown away by the incredible amount of celestial phenomena they see at the location," Kuoni notes in its release.

Every Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday, visitors head to the West Texas site for both Twilight and Star parties. During the Twilight parties, attendees sit in an amphitheater and are guided through the cosmos by an observatory staffer. Star events, which take place after dark, give visitors the opportunity to use high-powered telescopes in the McDonald's Rebecca Gale Telescope Park. So why stargazing? Kuoni says it's an activity that encapsulates much of what modern travelers look for in a vacation. "With travelers having more desire than ever to learn about the natural world, and a general trend in travelers looking to try local one-of-a-kind experiences, stargazing is set to become a super popular activity," notes a release.

Joining the Oregon University Observatory and McDonald Observatory in the top five are National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Socorro, New Mexico; National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C.; and Kitt Peak National Observatory Nightly Observing Program in Tuscon, Arizona. The only other Texas spot on the list was the Fort Worth Noble Planetarium at No. 26.

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This story originally appeared on AutomotiveMap's sister site, CultureMap.

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Domino's and Nuro announced their partnership in 2019 — and now the robots are hitting the roads.

Photo courtesy of Nuro

After announcing their partnership to work on pizza deliveries via self-driving robots in 2019, Dominos and Nuro have officially rolled out their technology to one part of town.

Beginning this week, if you place a prepaid order from Domino's in Woodland Heights (3209 Houston Ave.), you might have the option to have one of Nuro's R2 robot come to your door. This vehicle is the first do deliver completely autonomously without occupants with a regulatory approval by the U.S. Department of Transportation, according to a news release.

"We're excited to continue innovating the delivery experience for Domino's customers by testing autonomous delivery with Nuro in Houston," says Dennis Maloney, Domino's senior vice president and chief innovation officer, in the release. "There is still so much for our brand to learn about the autonomous delivery space. This program will allow us to better understand how customers respond to the deliveries, how they interact with the robot and how it affects store operations."

Orders placed at select dates and times will have the option to be delivered autonomously. Photo courtesy of Nuro

Nuro Domino's delivery vehicle

The Nuro deliveries will be available on select days and times, and users will be able to opt for the autonomous deliveries when they make their prepaid orders online. They will then receive a code via text message to use on the robot to open the hatch to retrieve their order.

"Nuro's mission is to better everyday life through robotics. Now, for the first time, we're launching real world, autonomous deliveries with R2 and Domino's," says Dave Ferguson, Nuro co-founder and president, in the release. "We're excited to introduce our autonomous delivery bots to a select set of Domino's customers in Houston. We can't wait to see what they think."

California-based Nuro has launched a few delivery pilots in Houston over the past few years, including the first Nuro pilot program with Kroger in March 2019, grocery delivery from Walmart that was revealed in December 2019, and pharmacy delivery that launched last summer.

From being located in a state open to rolling out new AV regulations to Houston's diversity — both in its inhabitants to its roadways, the Bayou City stood out to Nuro, says Sola Lawal, product operations manager at Nuro.

"As a company, we tried to find a city that would allow us to test a number of different things to figure out what really works and who it works for," Lawal says on an episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. "It's hard to find cities that are better than Houston at enabling that level of testing."

You can find out which self-driving vehicles are being tested in your neck of the woods by clicking here.


This article first appeared on AutomotiveMap's sister site InnovationMap.

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A new Texas-themed version of the Jeep Gladiator is on the way.

Photo courtesy of Stellantis

Jeep has brought the Gladiator's off-road chops to the trails of the Lone Star State. The 2021 Jeep Gladiator Texas Trail is another of the the traditional of special edition vehicles for Texans who occupy the nation's largest truck market. It's the first time Jeep has offered a unique-to-Texas truck.

The new model builds on the Gladiator Sport S trim adding 17-inch Mid-Gloss Back Aluminum wheels wrapped in 32-inch mud-terrain tires, four-wheel drive, standard side steps, and the Trailer Tow Group. The Gladiator Texas Trail has a unique hood and decals that feature the year 1836 in the graphic as a nod to the year of the Texas Declaration of Independence. It also wears a black hardtop, black leather seats embossed with the Texas Trail graphic and comes equipped with the Technology Group and Convenience Group packages.

2021 Jeep Gl The vehicle is ready to be fully accessorized to the buyer's wishes.Photo courtesy of Stellantis

2021 Jeep Gl

The Texas-themed model features the buyer's choice of Jeep's new 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 engine that's rated at 260 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque or the tried and true 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 power plant, which achieves 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque.

Jeep has badged each of the models with Trail Rated status. To achieve this status, Jeep vehicles must pass extreme off-road capability challenges.

The Gladiator Texas Trail is available in 10 colors: black, white, Snazzberry, Granite Crystal, Sarge, Nacho, Hydro Blue, Firecracker Red, Billet Silver, and Sting-Gray. Jeep recently introduced a Snazzberry-colored Wrangler.

Each Gladiator comes with the Jeep Wave customer service program, which includes three years of maintenance, 24/7 phone/online support, trip interruption/first-day loaner coverage, and VIP access to Jeep events.

The 2021 Jeep Gladiator Texas Trail has a starting MSRP of $40,435 (plus $1,495 destination) and is currently available at Texas dealers.

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