Where is a good place to star gaze the night of May 20 around Sonoma, CA?
April 19, 2012 10:26 AM   Subscribe

Where is a good place to star gaze the night of May 20 around Sonoma, CA?

A friend wants to check out the eclipse and then look at the night sky afterward on May 20. I live on the peninsula, but we will be around Sonoma on that day. Where's a good place I can park, look at a decent night sky, and not get harassed? I know a lot of parks close a dusk, so that's probably out. We probably won't stay past 10pm. Any ideas?
posted by aloysius on the mixing boards to Travel & Transportation around Sonoma, CA (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think this is actually a great place, but for a few meteor showers I have driven up Wilson Hill Road outside of Petaluma in the middle of the night to watch. Somewhere around here. The road is minimally traveled, the shoulders are wide, we had no problem at 3AM.

However, Petaluma's a good distance west of Sonoma, there has to be something better over in the valley of the moon.
posted by straw at 11:14 AM on April 19, 2012

The best views I know of around there are up trinity rd/oakville grade. There are lots of pullouts, no traffic to speak of, and not much in the way of city glow.
posted by foodgeek at 11:19 AM on April 19, 2012

This is not a specific location recommendation; just an explanation of how a friend and I picked a stargazing location in an area which was new to us.

I was on a sight-seeing and stargazing trip last summer with a friend. We rented a condo for a few nights in the Mammoth Lakes area, and brought a rented telescope with us. When it came time to pick a place to stargaze, we used Google Maps. From the main highway, we found a paved road that was south of town and led in the opposite direction of it. The road had just a few properties along it, so we expected little traffic and light pollution. When we got there, we found a school building that was not lit, and had a big, empty parking lot. That's where we set up, and nobody bothered us.
posted by germdisco at 11:19 AM on April 19, 2012

So I'm actually not a huge fan of the food at Dry Creek General Store

But its got a bar attached thats open "late" its got outdoor picnic tables and deck seating and is near some wide open vineyards so the view should be unobstructed. You should be able to grab a beer or a glass of wine and sit outside on a nice night.
posted by bitdamaged at 11:32 AM on April 19, 2012

When I lived in Sonoma County, I went on a night hike (full moon) with a local group on Bald Mountain trail in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. It's about a half-hour drive from the town of Sonoma, about seven miles outside of Santa Rosa. It's a good star- and moon-gazing location. The Valley of the Moon Observatory Association used to provide year-round astronomy education and interpretation programs at the Robert Ferguson Observatory within the park.

Sugarloaf Ridge SP

You'll have to check and see if it's open that weekend; I heard it was a victim of CA state park closures for camping, but open for day use.
posted by caryatid at 4:40 PM on April 19, 2012

The Robert Ferguson Observatory, in Sugarloaf Ridge SP as caryatid wrote. Their FAQ says
Although Sugarloaf Ridge State Park was closed for the season, RFO remains open and will conduct its normal operations. Visitors to the observatory will have access for public star parties and rented private events, and the observatory will still offer its regular slate of astronomy classes.
posted by phliar at 1:45 PM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

The problem with the RFO is that it is not open on the 20th according to their schedule. Also, I'd rather not be around other people if I can help it.
posted by aloysius on the mixing boards at 2:15 PM on April 20, 2012

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