People will soon be able to program the Golden Gate Bridge to brightly blink right at them for a few moments.
A pair of Internet-connected, remote-controlled solar beacons on Sunday will begin shining atop the Golden Gate Bridge -- and Bay Area residents will soon get to play with them.
They're birthday candles for the bridge's 75th anniversary, said a UC Berkeley researcher who thinks up ways to create faraway, high-up lights for folks to admire.
The sunlight reflecting off plate-glass windows and buildings throughout the Bay Area inspired John Vallerga and his colleagues at the UC Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory nestled in the Berkeley hills.
"I wanted people to notice these solar reflections and glints all around us all day long," said Vallerga, who normally builds instruments that fly aboard spacecraft such as the Hubble Space Telescope.
The bridge "candles" are mirrors that the public will soon be able to direct through the Internet to make them swivel and tilt, glinting reflected sunlight to any point with a view of the bridge.
Each mirror, or heliostat, is about two feet across and has four six-inch-square mirrors. Attached motors can swivel and tilt the mirrors to reflect the sun anywhere desired.
"The heliostats are up and working," Vallerga said Saturday night. "We calibrated the angles today."
An interactive "scheduler" should be up and running by the end of the week, he said. "Until then, we will
Also working on the project is Lillian Lijn, a London-based artist working with the UC team. She was an artist in residence at the lab in 2004.
Once the interactive scheduler is available, Bay Area residents who want the bridge to blink or shine down at them can go to http://solarbeacon.org to set the precise time over the next three months for both of the heliostats to
Courtesy of UC Berkley
UC astrophysicist Pat Jelinsky wrote the computer software that takes a person's location (latitude, longitude and altitude), calculates the position of the sun at the time specified, and determines how to orient the heliostat to reflect the sun to the right location at the right time.
Vallerga's Solar Beacon is one of 75 birthday tributes approved by the Golden Gate Transportation District to celebrate the bridge's completion in 1937, and one of the few approved for installation on the bridge itself.
The UC Berkeley team, volunteers who raised money for the project through private donations and seed funding from the Space Sciences Lab, plan to flash the mirrors at the assembled crowds on Crissy Field along the San Francisco waterfront during Sunday's celebrations.
Vallerga says he hopes the project will create enough interest to resurrect another of his and Lijn's art projects, the installation of five prism heliostats along a ridge on Mt. Sainte Victoire in France in 2013 to convert sunlight into refracted rainbow colors. The project was recently put on hold for lack of funds.