Seeing the stars in the night sky can be a thing of wonder, whether you’re using a good pair of binoculars with your family or checking out a high-powered telescope at a public event. Some public stargazing events are resuming this summer, and there are other great places in the Bay Area to get away from light pollution, plus virtual options to check out. As always, check websites before heading out for updated closures and regulations.
Chabot Space & Science Center – When open, this facility has the only research-level telescopes regularly available to the public for weekly free live viewings in the Western United States. Until then, attend free virtual viewings through Chabot’s most powerful telescope on Saturdays from 9:30-10:30 p.m. The center is slated to reopen in November with a new partnership with NASA Ames Research Center. 1000 Skyline Blvd., Oakland. 510-336-7300.
Del Valle Regional Park – Part of the East Bay Regional Park System, this lakeside park is a good place to get away from distracting city lights. Del Valle Road off Mines Road, south of Livermore. $6 parking fee. 888-327-2757.
Fremont Peak Observatory – While evening public programs were on hold at press time, daytime solar programs were scheduled for select Saturdays. Fremont State Park, San Juan Canyon Road (11 miles south of San Juan Bautista). 831-623-2465.
Grizzly Peak Boulevard – Drive up Grizzly Peak Boulevard in the Berkeley Hills until you get high enough above the city to check out your favorite constellations.
Marin and North Bay
Robert Ferguson Observatory – Pubic Star Parties with telescope viewing were scheduled to resume in July.Advanced tickets are required. Check website for details and ticket prices. Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, 2605 Adobe Canyon Road, Kenwood. 707-833-6979.
Hawk Hill – Just north of the Golden Gate Bridge is Hawk Hill, a 923-foot peak in the Marin Headlands. During World War II, it was mounted with large guns to defend against air attacks..
Mount Tamalpais State Park – Mount Tam’s astronomy programs went virtual during the pandemic, with programming available on You Tube. Pre-pandemic programming included in-person talks and telescope viewing.
Lands End Point – Walk about a mile with your flashlight by eucalyptus and cypress trees to get to one of the clearest viewing points within the city. This is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Presidio – Check out the parade grounds and parking lot for great viewing locations. The San Francisco Amateur Astronomers club, which would sometimes bring its telescopes here for public stargazing parties, has moved its monthly lectures to live-streamed at sfaa-astronomy.org/live-streamed-lectures, where recordings are also available. 415-561-4323. .
San Francisco State University Observatory – When open to the public, this student-run facility offers docent-led telescope viewing on clear nights of craters on the moon, the rings of Saturn, giant star clusters and more. It happens two to three nights a week during the school year. FREE. Check website for times. Thornton Hall, 10th floor, room 1002. 415-338-7707.
Foothill College Observatory – At press time, the observatory was closed to the public but typically offers free public viewing Fri. from 9-11 p.m. on clear nights and solar viewing Saturdays from 10 a.m.-noon. The Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series has moved online. 12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills. 650-949-7334. .
Henry Coe State Park – Amateur astronomers love to find spots for stargazing in this 80,000-acre park, the biggest state park in Northern California. 9100 E. Dunne Ave., Morgan Hill. $6-8 entrance fee. 408-779-2728.
Lick Observatory – Closed at press time, Lick Observatory typically offers summertime telescope viewing, lectures and multimedia presentations. Founded in 1888, this “eye on the sky” keeps up with advances in astronomy and serves as a research facility for the University of California. Located at the summit of Mount Hamilton, east of San Jose. 408-274-5066.
Monte Bello Open Space Preserve – If you apply for a free permit at least two weekdays before your visit, you can use the parking lot after hours for astronomical viewing between dusk and 2 a.m. Page Mill Road, seven miles west of Highway 280 and 1.5 miles east of Skyline Boulevard. 650-691-1200.
Local astronomy clubs offer resources, in-person and online events, and more.
Apps and Websites
A number of free or low-cost apps let you point your smart phone to the sky to identify constellations, planets and more. Plus, there are lots of websites to further your family’s interest in and knowledge of astronomy.
Star Tracker: Available in Apple App store or Google Play.