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28 February 2008 @ 11:24 pm
Milky Way?  
Since her lens replacement, Quel has become aware that the night sky is filled with little points of light that are visible even from our backyard in the heart of Silicon Valley. She's downloaded a couple of astronomy programs, and has been taking great delight in pointing out constellations, stars and planets to me.

(Despite my general interest in, well, everything in the universe, I confess that I never spent much time learning anything more than the most obvious celestial patterns.)

Now that we're looking upward and paying attention, we've started to crave more vivid sights than the light pollution of the South Bay can provide. In particular, the Fire of my Heart wishes to see the Milky Way -- a sight I can only remember seeing a handful of times from dry land.

Does anyone know of a locale within a day or two's drive of Santa Clara where the skies are sufficiently clear and free of city lights that the Milky Way might be visible?
I feel: curiouscurious
Tugrik - Modern Day Monocerostugrik on February 29th, 2008 07:36 am (UTC)
Sure, just pop over to Grant county park (or whichever it's called, the one that's on the way to Mt. Hamilton). Just a few minutes away and great views. :) Also, Dinosaur Pt. up on the San Louis reservoir.
Araquan Skytraceraraquan on February 29th, 2008 08:00 am (UTC)
I'd think most of Nevada would work- or it seemed to from the train. But not near Las Vegas. You'd have to get well east of Reno too. That wouldn't be a simple daytrip however.

Added bonus: seeing the Sierras on the way there/back.

Edited at 2008-02-29 08:01 am (UTC)
Dendewhitton on February 29th, 2008 09:19 am (UTC)

Oh, sorry. You want to drive.
doc_mysterydoc_mystery on February 29th, 2008 01:41 pm (UTC)
I remember visiting California some (gulp) 25 years ago, and while driving through the Sierra Nevada's at night my father and I were blown away by the sight of the Milky Way.

It was truly like seeing a glowing ribbon or river of light made by billions of misty and more gem-like stars.

Vargrvrghr on February 29th, 2008 06:45 pm (UTC)
Public observatory
Here's something you might be interested in. It will certainly give great views of the night sky, but it's a lot more than that:


The "Fremont Peak", located near the town of San Juan Bautista (about 90-minutes to 2 hours from you) has a public observatory. Sounds entertaining, if you happen to be interested in viewing the stars.

However, as for light polution, you really don't need to travel that far. Any open areas more than a couple dozen miles outside the edge of city limits will make a dramatic different in what you can see. They won't be quite the same quality as those conditions sought for "real" observatories, but you're not looking for those kinds of images anyway.

Try taking a look at google for various state parks close by. You might also try a look by using the satellite images for Google Maps and see if you can spot some likely prospects in the areas around you that look open and uninhabited enough.

I know that when wuff was out visiting Boojum there in San Jose, we frequently took "driving adventure" trips at random to various "out of the way" areas (like in the mountains between San Jose and Santa Cruz). There were plenty of spots where we could only see one or two houses on the horizon, and had open views of the sky.

For casual or 'novice' observations, places like that should be more than sufficient. Once you get to the point of setting up your own telescope or taking time-exposure photos of the night sky, then you might want to seek out even more remote areas.

Your Obedient Serpentathelind on March 1st, 2008 12:20 am (UTC)
Re: Public observatory
You know, I've been to the top of Fremont Peak -- in the middle of the day, for Geology/Hydrology class. On a clear day, you can see VAST swaths of terrain from the peak, and my Geo/Hydro prof took advantage of that to spend a good chunk of time pointing out features geological and geographic.

(We also parked at the base and hiked up, so there was a goodly amount of time spent en route, as well.)
Wywy on March 2nd, 2008 03:25 am (UTC)
JP Sugarbroadtaral on March 4th, 2008 12:34 am (UTC)
Go up. It makes a huge difference.