StarDate is a science radio program of the University of Texas at Austin McDonald Observatory, broadcast on over 360 radio stations. It is a daily guide to the night sky and breaking astronomical news. Typically heard without formal introduction, StarDate is a self-contained science news feature interwoven with routine radio programming. It is the longest-running science outreach program on U.S. radio. Created by KNOW Radio (Austin) News Director Grady Blount in 1977, the short synoptic format of StarDate was borrowed from a daily radio news feature called 90 Seconds, and was intended to invoke the immediate sense of the term "stardate" used in the opening monologue of the 1960s television series Star Trek.
Logo for the StarDate radio program
|Country of origin||United States|
|Created by||Grady Blount|
|Recording studio||Austin, Texas|
|Original release||1977– present|
Original scripts were written by science journalist Deborah Byrd of the McDonald Observatory. These evolved from a 1976 astronomy telephone message service and a 30-minute-long Sunday morning public service radio program on astronomy taped at the former KNOW studios on North Lamar Street at Martin Luther King Boulevard. Another Austin radio station, KLBJ-FM, aired a broadcast version of similar Byrd-inspired scripts as Have You Seen the Stars Tonight? With the creation of the StarDate concept, Byrd secured funding from the National Science Foundation to begin national distribution under the new moniker and brief, immediate format. The niche broadcasting position of StarDate has always been its quick but relaxed, diary-like delivery which allows it to be interspersed with regular programming.
Byrd produced the show and Joel Block hosted it, until 1991, when a change in management at McDonald and effective demotions led both to depart and start another syndicated radio series, Earth & Sky, which aired from 1991 to 2013 and was heard on about 1,000 radio stations.
Since 1991, StarDate has been produced by Damond Benningfield, and hosted by Sandy Wood, a San Antonio radio personality who was one of the first female disc jockeys in the southwestern United States.
Stations that broadcast StarDate include affiliates and owned stations of CBS Radio and National Public Radio, approximately 300 stations. The program is also available as a downloadable podcast. Universo, the Spanish language version of StarDate, first aired on April 1, 1995.
StarDate Magazine was first known as McDonald Observatory News in 1972. It became a bimonthly magazine in 1988.