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A Guide to Bay Area Stargazing

Peek through someone else’s fancy telescope at one of the monthly Bay Area “Star Parties”
By - posted 5/6/2011 No Comment

Few things create as much wonderment as a night sky twinkling with a limitless display of stars. But city dweller rarely get skies dark enough, particularly in San Francisco with fog refracting the light.

That’s why it’s worth an evening trip to head near the top of Mount Tamalpais in Marin County for a free Public Star Party put together by park officials and SF Amateur Astronomer volunteers.

You can star gaze for hours up there, with all the romance that conjures up. But you’ll also learn a lot about the science of astronomy (not astrology… there’ll be no horoscopes) thanks to a short lecture given right at sundown. Last year, one speaker talked about the Globe At Night project, which highlighting the effects of light pollution worldwide, while another spoke about famous female astronomers.

And then, the sky is all yours, brought down up close thanks to the dozen amateur astronomers who bring their ultra-pricey telescopes and let you gaze through them until midnight.

Astronomy Day on Mt. Tam with Public Star Party

When: First Saturdays May through October.
May 7,  June 4,  July 9 (2nd Sat.),  August 6,  September 3,  October 1

Where: Mt Tam’s Rock Springs parking lot on Bolinas Ridge Road in Mill Valley. Get Directions

Cost: Free

Extra Info: If you go, be careful to keep lights to a bare minimum. Don’t carry a flash light. If you drive up to the lot after dark, crawl in with just your parking lights on. It can take 20 min to get you eyes adjusted to the dark.

San Francisco City Star Parties
Can’t make the trip to Mt. Tam? There’s also the San Francisco City Star Party usually held monthly, year-round, at sunset. It’s held at Land’s End, on the parking lot up the hill from the Cliff House. Even though it’s put together also by the SF Amateur Astronomers, it can be less organized than the Mt. Tam event where the views of the stars are sure to be better anyway.

At the time of this writing, the 2011 SF City Star Party schedule has not been released yet. Check here for updates

Apps to Help With Stargazing

– iPhone / iPad: Download the $0.99 Planisphere app before coming, hold your device up to night sky and it’ll show you the constellations.
– Android: Download the FREE Google Sky Map – turn on GPS and point to the sky.

Categories: *Top Pick*, Geek Event, Kids & Families, Lectures & Workshops, North Bay

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