Programs & Events

Dark Sky Park Program Coordinator
Call 231.427.1001

Welcome to the Headlands International Dark Sky Park! The grounds, trails, and viewing areas at Headlands are open 24 hours a day, every day. Visitors are welcome to stay out through the night for dark-sky viewing opportunities, but camping is not permitted. Units like tents and campers are not allowed in the park. The Headlands is not intended as an overnight sleeping destination but instead is designed as a place to stay awake and view the stars. You may bring blankets, sleeping bags, chairs, food, beverages, etc. When packing, keep in mind that temperatures are typically 10 degrees lower than expected due to our proximity to the lake shore.

To protect the darkness of the park, please use red-filtered flashlights during your visit to the Headlands. Learn more here.

Our programs take place rain or shine, and no reservations are required unless otherwise noted.

Please save some time during your visit to stop by our “Out of This World” Gift Shop!

The Observatory is limited to park staff and researchers. Visuals when the Observatory is open are projected onto the big screen monitors on the main level. Professional star-gazers and astronomers are available on site to enhance your viewing experience during scheduled observing nights.

While the grounds, trails, viewing areas and restrooms at Headlands are always open and freely accessible, the Waterfront Event Center is only open to the public during scheduled programming and gift shop hours. The Waterfront Event Center at the Headlands is available for private rental.

To stay up-to-date on news and events at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park, register for email blasts by contacting scox@emmetcounty.org and be sure to follow our Facebook page for more news and photos.

Nov
18
Fri
‘Friday Night (No) Lights’ for the Leonids @ Shoreline viewing area at Headlands
Nov 18 @ 10:00 pm – 11:45 pm

 

Lantern walking through November woods at Headlands

Lantern walking through November woods at Headlands

We know it’s still football season under the big stadium lights of fall, but it’s also the peak of the lion’s meteor shower and you’re invited to join us under the dark of night at Headlands for a beautiful experience under the starry skies.

Program Director Mary Stewart Adams will meet guests at the Headlands entrance and give a guided tour through the beautiful moonlit woods to the viewing area at the shoreline, to catch the falling stars and hear further tales of the night. This is a one mile walk in the woods, and guests are invited to bring lanterns, to coincide with seasonal traditions of taking lantern walks into dark November nights. Please be prepared with walking shoes and layers of warm clothes. The Leonid Meteor Shower peaks overhead at this time, as earth travels through the wake of starry stuff left in the trail of the Comet Temple-Tuttle.

“The Leonid is a really variable meteor shower,” said Adams, “but it’s also one of the most historically significant, because it gave rise to the science and study of meteor showers when it caused an incredible outburst in the early 1800s. And it’s November, when tradition holds that taking a walk by lantern light is done to celebrate the strength of inner light despite the challenge of growing, outer darkness.”

The Moon will be Full just a few days prior to the peak of the Leonid Meteor Shower, and while that can diminish views of the less bright meteors, there is still the promise of beautiful stargazing. Orion will be solidly over the horizon in the east, chasing the star cluster of the Pleiades across the sky, and the Andromeda Galaxy will be seen spiraling directly overhead. In addition to providing star maps and a guided walking tour by lantern light, we’ll have our telescopes out for peering deeper into the night while we wait for wishing stars to fall through the sky! Participants should dress for low temperatures. “These colder nights make for some great stargazing because there’s less haze in the atmosphere, and the dark seems to be more velvety and richer” said Adams.

The radiant of the Leonid Meteor Shower is in the sickle of the Lion

The radiant of the Leonid Meteor Shower is in the sickle, or head region of the mighty Lion

Jan
28
Sat
A Winter Moon makes for the Darkest Night of the Year @ Guest House Headlands International Dark Sky Park
Jan 28 @ 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
 
Big_Dipper_l

The position of the Big Dipper region of Ursa Major can be used like a mighty celestial clock to determine the seasons of the year and the time of night!

January’s New Moon carries the promise of deep darkness for finding the stars and constellations that are used to determine the celestial new year, not only in the Chinese Calendar, but in the Native American and Christian cultures as well. Gather at Headlands just before sunset to learn about these different traditions, to craft star calendars, celebrate the year of the rooster, and to follow it all up with some winter stargazing. Some supplies provided, though you are welcome to bring your own. Suitable for ages 9 to 90…

Apr
7
Fri
Statewide Astronomy Night
Apr 7 @ 8:00 pm – 10:00 pm
The Observatory Tower at Headlands features an Ash Dome and 20" PlaneWave Telescope on sneak preview during Statewide Astronomy Night April 7, 2017

The Observatory Tower at Headlands features an Ash Dome and 20″ PlaneWave Telescope that will be on sneak preview during Statewide Astronomy Night April 7, 2017

Tonight, Headlands partners with Michigan State University and organizations around the Great Lakes State to celebrate Statewide Astronomy Night (SWAN) at our observatory facility, where we will preview our new Roger McCormick 20″ PlaneWave telescope for peering deeply into the sky. Participants are also encouraged to bring their own telescopes, and questions for our experts about how to use them, which to buy, what to see, and more!
May
6
Sat
Photographing the night sky @ Headlands entrance @ 15675 Headlands Road
May 6 @ 6:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Photographer John Hill has mastered the magic of catching the stars that shine over Headlands as seen in this image from June 2016

Photographer John Hill has mastered the magic of catching the stars that shine over Headlands as seen in this image from June 2016

It’s the season for celebrating the designation of Headlands as the world’s 9th International Dark Sky Park, and we’re inviting you to join us for an exceptional evening of learning how to photograph the night sky ~ from those in the know, featuring the talented John Hill. John’s been capturing the starry skies over Headlands in rare style, and his photos of us have been featured in the International Dark Sky Association calendar for 2017, the Detroit Free Press, and more! Says John: “The Headlands is my home for the stars. It’s the first place I saw the milky way. The first place I saw the northern lights. It’s where I fell in love with shooting the night sky.” A Michigan-based photographer , John spends his days at the advertising agency Leo Burnett, managing a social media team in metro-Detroit. In his free time, he travels across the state to capture unique landscapes and share the unique beauty of Michigan. John was named a top Instagrammer by Pure Michigan, has been featured in the International Dark Sky Association 2017 calendar, and has coined The Headlands as his favorite place to enjoy the night sky. 

Reservations are required for the workshop portion of this evening’s program at (231) 348-1713. The first portion of tonight’s program, from 6 to 7 pm, is open to the public for free, and will be followed by the $10, reservations-only hands-on workshop starting at 8 pm, so participants can catch sunset in the west as gibbous Moon takes the night sky stage.

 

Jun
22
Thu
GRAND OPENING OF THE WATERFRONT EVENT CENTER @ Waterfront Event Center
Jun 22 @ 2:00 pm – 6:00 pm

Join us in celebrating the terrific resources that make up Emmet County’s Headlands property at the Grand Opening of our new Waterfront Event Center and Observatory on Thursday, June 22 from 2 to 6 pm. The grand opening will include several terrific guest speakers, tours of the grounds and facilities, dedication of the Roger McCormick Planewave Telescope, and spectacular views! 

The grounds at Headlands Waterfront Event Center and Observatory

Aug
11
Fri
Perseid Meteor Shower and Lights Out Challenge @ Waterfront Event Center
Aug 11 @ 9:00 pm – 11:00 pm

Each year, Emmet County’s International Dark Sky Park at the Headlands partners up with its local communities in a friendly area-wide competition to see who can get darkest in the 10 to 11 pm hour the night of the Perseid Meteor Shower, Friday, August 11 in 2017. The Mackinac Bridge Authority turns off its cable lights; St. Ignace disappears into the mists like Brigadoon; Mackinaw City turns the lights down low; and visitors, residents, and business owners around the Little Traverse Bay communities of Petoskey and Harbor Springs get a chance to show off their stars by putting the lights out. Please note that participation is voluntary, so help us get the word out!

During the challenge, we host an event at Headlands that includes the myth and science of the heroic Perseid Meteor Shower, and we work hard to dispel the sensation being stirred up by an unbridled internet mania that has recently given rise to stories like this being the brightest meteor shower in the history of forever. This is simply not true. In 2017, the Perseid Meteor Shower is diminished by near-full moonlight (Moon will be Full on August 7, 2017, which means that the nights of August 11, 12, and 13, the Moon is at waning  gibbous phase. It will rise up just after 11 pm, and stay up all night, when the meteor shower is at its peak). Still, the nights can be beautiful, and the Moon has its own loveliness, even when it’s swallowing up the starshine!

No reservations are necessary for this event, but you are encouraged to arrive early to secure a parking space near the Waterfront Event Center (at least an hour before program time). Once the parking lot is full, guests park near the entrance to Headlands and walk one mile to the shoreline and event center viewing areas. You are welcome to bring snacks and beverages, and please bring something to sit on and dress for temperatures 10 degrees cooler than inland. Though meteor showers are best witnessed with the naked eye, we will open the Observatory for public viewing during a portion of this evening, on a first-come, first-served basis (entry numbers will be distributed, for those interested, to save you from having to stand inside in line, and we ask you to bear with us while we sort out a system that can accommodate the wonderful demand!).

Program happens rain or shine, though inclement weather diminishes views of the falling stars!

For more information, please call 231-348-1713 or email darksky@emmetcounty.org 

 

 

Aug
21
Mon
The Great American Solar Eclipse @ Waterfront Event Center
Aug 21 @ 12:30 pm – 3:45 pm

Our Coast Guard friend Joe Komjathy’s shot of the Moon through our Takahashi Telescope, just a few short weeks before it overtakes the Sun at eclipse on Monday, August 21st.

If you aren’t able to get into the path of totality for the biggest celestial event of the year, you can view partiality through the solar telescope at Headlands but PLEASE NOTE: Only 78% of the Sun will appear to be eclipsed from our location.

We will have our Observatory open with the Lunt Solar Telescope streaming live eclipse action onto the large screens in our Event Center program space, and solar filter telescopes set up outside for safe viewing. In addition, we will have a limited number of eclipse glasses for sale. We expect to be busy, so plan your visit with the following in mind:

The entire process from first contact of Moon with Sun until its end is about two hours and 40 minutes.

The Moon will begin to eclipse the Sun at 12:59 pm, edt.

Maximum eclipse, during which 78% of Sun appears blocked by Moon, will happen at 2:23 pm.

The eclipse will end at 3:39 pm.

The best plan is to consider the event like an open house, and to decide which thing you most want to see, first contact, maximum eclipse, or the “dying moments”. Then, you can come for that experience, and stay for all or part of the rest.

At Headlands we will also have live video stream from the path of totality, and eclipse-related crafts. Our Program Director, Mary Stewart Adams, will do occasional Facebook live video from Oregon where she will be at the leading edge of the path of totality.

We expect to be busy, so arrive early for parking near the Waterfront Event Center, or be prepared to take a beautiful walk through the woods from the parking at the entrance. Remember, this eclipse will occur during broad daylight, so a woods walk is a pleasant way to journey!

Bring snacks and beverages.

If you would like more information about this, or any of our events, please call 231-348-1713, or email darksky@emmetcounty.org

Sep
23
Sat
Autumn Equinox in Northern Michigan @ Waterfront Event Center
Sep 23 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

 

At Autumn Equinox, the forces of the day are balanced by the forces of the night, which gave rise to the ancient symbol of the Libra scales, oftentimes depicted as the scales of justice.

The balance has been struck and at tonight’s program we will follow Sun and Moon across the western horizon into the story and wonder of the growing dark. At Headlands we’ll have our telescopes trained on the last hint of Jupiter, setting with the Virgo region of stars, then we’ll swing over to Saturn where he boldly shows his rings among the stars of the Milky Way. Tonight’s program will also include traditional tales of Equinox and the way it is observed in various cultures of the world, including a description of the ancient glyphs used to depict the different regions of the zodiac and their meanings. For event details, please call (231) 348-1713 or email darksky@emmetcounty.org.

Oct
6
Fri
Harvest Moon at Headlands @ Waterfront Event Center
Oct 6 @ 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm

It’s time to dance by the light of the silvery Moon! And this year, because October’s is the closest Full Moon to Autumn Equinox, it gets the honor of being Harvest Moon, so we’ll strike up the band and have a great time with Dr. Good Hart’s Home Remedy,  a group of local musicians that are tuned into helping us all celebrate the bounty of the Earth and the shining stars!

Program happens rain or shine, whether we’re outside under the open sky or inside the Headlands Waterfront Event Center. We’ll give guidance to what’s in the sky overhead as well.

Event is $10/person, at the entrance. For more information, please give us a call at 231-348-1713, or email at darksky@emmetcounty.org.

Dr. Good Hart’s Home Remedy is a local favorite, often heard playing at the Good Hart General Store during summer market day

Nov
17
Fri
Leonid Meteor Shower @ Waterfront Event Center
Nov 17 @ 8:00 pm – 10:00 pm
On its path through our planetary system, Comet Temple-Tuttle leaves its trail of stars in the region of the Lion

On its path through our planetary system, Comet Temple-Tuttle leaves its trail of stars in the region of the Lion

One of history’s most prolific meteor showers, the Leonids, comes to its peak this weekend, November 17-18, 2017, and Headlands will offer an evening program indoors and a night hike outdoors to set the stage. The Leonid Meteor Shower Program will happen on Friday, November 17, from 8 to 10 pm at the Waterfront Event Center and Observatory. The program is free, and participants can park in the main lot near the event center. 
 
The Leonid Meteor Shower is caused by the trail of stuff left in the wake of the Comet Tempel-Tuttle as it speeds through our planetary system. Known as a periodic comet, Tempel-Tuttle was discovered in 1865, the same year that the American Civil War ended, and that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. In 1833 the Leonids produced such a storm of meteors that people across North America thought it was a portent of the end of times. Instead, it marked the beginning of “meteor shower science”, which led astronomers to understand that meteor showers, though named for the constellation in front of which their radiant appears, are actually caused by comets.
 
“Comet Temple-Tuttle has an orbital periodicity of 33 years, and won’t be seen again in our planetary system until 2031, but its meteor shower happens every year, and coincides with the time of year when many cultures celebrate a tradition of carrying lanterns out into the night, to stave of the early darkness of the season and the coming cold temperatures. I love to think of it as the Lion shaking out his starry mane. The Lion is often associated with courage and compassion and leadership,” said Headlands program Director Mary Stewart Adams.
 
The Leonids will not be diminished by moonlight this year, since New Phase coincides nearly with the peak of the shower, which is after midnight. “Our program is really about preparing for the shower with observing the Leonid sky, hearing the stories of this shower, learning the the science,” said Adams.