Bay Areans: Best spot to see aurora tonight? But pls be *specific*
May 11, 2024 2:07 PM   Subscribe

We live in the east bay and didn't have any luck last night, but I wasn't able to drive too far out from city light pollution. More under the fold...

Looking for *very specific directions* to the darkest spots where we might have some luck for the best viewing. My issue is that everything I find online is along the lines of "go to Mt. Diablo" etc, which is not helpful because a. It's a whole-ass mountain, so that direction is kinda vague; and b. Most of the roads up the mountain close at sundown. Or they recommend places that you need to hike into to get to the darkest area, which is not really doable for us at this time.

So where can we go that is within an hour of the Caldecott Tunnel – preferably less – and have the best chance? I'm imagining something up with a clear view to the north...maybe with a bit of altitude? Thanks!
posted by Molasses808 to Science & Nature (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Sunday may be better than today. NOAA is reporting :

published: Saturday, May 11, 2024 17:54 UTC
Another series of CMEs associated with flare activity from Region 3664 over the past several days are expected to merge and arrive at Earth by midday (UTC) on 12 May. Periods of G4-G5 (Severe-Extreme) geomagnetic storms are likely to follow the arrival of these CMEs.
posted by ShooBoo at 2:37 PM on May 11 [1 favorite]

Well - given that it's reported to be midday UTC, if that means noon, that'll be 5am PDT Sunday morning.
posted by ShooBoo at 2:52 PM on May 11 [3 favorites]

I have just returned from Skyline (on the 9 about ten minutes past the four way stop out of Saratoga). Don't go there. Full of cars, and a lot of people who don't understand that dark adaptation involves no headlights, super bright flashlights or phone lights - plus the treeline is high to the north where you'd want to be looking.

I'm thinking that the trailheads on Mount Hamilton, past the main entrance to Joseph D Grant park might work. That's a bit south for you, though, and the first six miles of road is terrifying in the dark if you aren't familiar with twisty roads. Its advantage is its no longer in Santa Clara valley but in the next one across, so the hills block the direct view of the lights.

The other good option might be up in (or if they've closed the gate, near) the Vargas plateau parking lot. Again, I don't think it's got line of sight to the bay and it has a bit of elevation.

Your phone will probably find north, but to be on the safe side look up how to use the big dipper to find the pole star. And if you don't stare at your phone your eyes will adapt and the Milky Way should start to reveal itself.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 1:18 AM on May 12

Response by poster: We ended up at the waterfront park in Martinez, which is pretty dark and faces north. There were other folks there, but not too crowded at all. Plus it was easy to walk a bit from the lot towards the water for extra darkness. And we saw a slight purple glow in the sky, which showed up better on camera for sure. All in all, worth the midnight adventure!
posted by Molasses808 at 11:25 AM on May 12

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