Your mother always told you not to stare into the sun. But she didn't say anything about staring at your own personal solar flare.
With the help of two large mirrors called heliostats and an easy-to-use website, you can now get sun-blasted (safely) by the Solar Beacon, an art-meets-astronomy project created by John Vallergaa, an astrophysicist at the Space Sciences Laboratory at UC Berkeley, and Liliane Lijn, a London artist. It's done with heliostats that can direct a safe-to-view beam of sunlight at targets around the Bay Area. The project had a home on the Golden Gate Bridge from May to October last year, but has now moved to the top of UC Berkeley's Sather Tower, better known as the Campanile.
The best part? Using the project's web site, you can schedule your own viewing to coordinates that you supply. When we checked today, there were two scheduled for China Basin during the middle of the day. Availability of showings depends on the position of the sun or geographical limitations, but as a general rule, if you can see the southern or western faces of the tower and are between one and sixty miles away, you should be able to do it.
It may not match the sparkle of the Bay Lights, but you can't beat it for exclusivity.
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