Want to hang out with the stars? Go visit Leah, Rachel, and Nellie. They’re the names of the three marquee telescopes at the Chabot Space and Science Center in the East Bay, where every Friday and Saturday evening no-cost telescope star viewings are encouraged from the center’s unobstructed rooftop vantage. But first, go on a 5-mile (round-trip) redwoods hike that starts from Chabot’s Moon Gate entrance and through Redwood Regional Park.
The Chabot events go from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. and utilize the three amazing telescopes, each with a powerful story. Rachel is the largest refractor telescope in the western United States, with a diameter of 20 inches. Her counterpart, Leah, is the original 1883 8-inch telescope donated by founder Anthony Chabot. Nellie is the newest addition to the Space and Science Center, a 36-inch reflector, in a rolling roof observatory, allowing access deep into space. From this unobstructed vantage you get a spectacular show of the cosmos that’s sure to leave you starry eyed.
For an afternoon hike nearby, go on a 5-mile (round-trip) trek that starts from Chabot’s Moon Gate entrance and through Redwood Regional Park. From Moon Gate follow the West Ridge Trail past the Chabot Space and Science Center to the Fern Trail, which drops you into the redwood forest that the park was named after. The winding trail travels under towering redwoods beamed upon by winter’s low-hanging sun. Connect to the French Trail and traverse a slope near Redwood Creek, then on the Tres Sendas Trail back up to the Moon Gate.
TIP: Chabot has a new Lectures & Lasers series, where industry luminaries delve into everything from rocket launches to pop astrology as topics, followed by grabbing a drink and heading into the planetarium dome for a music and laser light show. Beer, wine, non-alcoholic beverages, and desserts are available for purchase. Go early to explore the Center and eat at Bean Sprouts Café before the show.
Park at the Moon Gate located on Skyline Blvd. to have easy access to the West Ridge Trail. In order to access the observatory, use the outside gate around the back of the Center and follow the signs to the observatory entrance gate. The observatory is free for showings on Friday and Saturday evenings from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., weather permitting. The hike is dog-friendly. No dogs at Chabot Space and Science Center.