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.

Jul
29
Fri
New in 2016: Starlight Trivia on Friday nights! @ Shoreline Dark Sky Viewing Area
Jul 29 @ 8:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Friday night trivia tests your knowledge of the stars

Friday night trivia tests your knowledge of the stars ~ photo by Aliana Lee

Fridays throughout the summer, starting July 1 (and unless there is a formal program scheduled) join us at the shoreline viewing area with your favorite team of family and friends for Starlight Trivia, designed to test and delight your knowledge of the stars! In the event of inclement weather, Starlight Trivia will take place at the Heritage Village Pavilion, across the street from Headlands main entrance. There are prizes to win, star names to learn, and plenty of fun to be had!

Remaining Starlight Trivia dates are July 29; and Aug. 5, 19, 26, and trivia will conclude with one last hoorah on Sept. 2.

Aug
5
Fri
New in 2016: Starlight Trivia on Friday nights! @ Shoreline Dark Sky Viewing Area
Aug 5 @ 8:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Friday night trivia tests your knowledge of the stars

Friday night trivia tests your knowledge of the stars ~ photo by Aliana Lee

Fridays throughout the summer, starting July 1 (and unless there is a formal program scheduled) join us at the shoreline viewing area with your favorite team of family and friends for Starlight Trivia, designed to test and delight your knowledge of the stars! In the event of inclement weather, Starlight Trivia will take place at the Heritage Village Pavilion, across the street from Headlands main entrance. There are prizes to win, star names to learn, and plenty of fun to be had!

Remaining Starlight Trivia dates are July 29; and Aug. 5, 19, 26, and trivia will conclude with one last hoorah on Sept. 2.

Aug
12
Fri
Lights Out Challenge 2016, with the Perseids
Aug 12 @ 8:30 pm – 11:00 pm

lights out together

Our scheduled Perseid Meteor Shower Program gets underway at 9 p.m. at the Headlands Guest House, and by 10 p.m. folks all over Northern Michigan are turning off their lights to join us in celebrating natural darkness and to count the falling stars!

Please arrive by 8:30 p.m. to catch sunset at the Guest House (and to get parked and settled in). Our program gets under way from 9 to 10 p.m., after which the Lights Out Challenge occurs in the surrounding communities (from 10 to 11 p.m.)

You can take part! Lights Out Across the Bay and Lights Out Across the Straits Challenges set for Aug. 12, 2016 during the Perseid Meteor Shower

About Lights OUT!

The Northwest Michigan region enjoys the unique and prestigious distinction of being home to one of the first 10 International Dark Sky Parks in the world at Emmet County’s Headlands park property.

That means all of Northern Michigan revels in the beauty created by protection of the night sky, and Emmet County continues its work toward protecting this resource through its annual Lights Out Challenge! This year, the fourth annual Lights Out Across the Bay and Lights Out Across the Straits challenges will take place on Friday, Aug. 12, 2016, from 10 to 11 p.m. During that timeframe, residents, businesses and visitors in the cross-water communities of Petoskey and Harbor Springs, and Mackinaw City and St. Ignace, will compete with one-another to achieve greater darkness over their towns.

“We’re asking everyone to shut their lights off for one hour and take the opportunity to reconnect with the sky above,” said Headlands Dark Sky Park Program Director Mary Stewart Adams.

The event is timed to coincide with the active Perseid Meteor Shower on Aug. 12, one of the most popular meteor showers of the year. Participants can show their support by signing a Lights Out Pledge and posting their support in residence windows or at the entrance to business locations. Pledge forms are available on the County web site, www.MIdarkskypark.org and at area Chambers of Commerce in the four communities.

“Signing the pledge means you agree to turn out your outdoor lights and inhibit any indoor light from spilling outside for one hour, from 10 to 11 p.m., on Friday, August 12,” said Adams. “It’s free, it’s full of fun good will, it saves money, and provides a great way to get to know your neighbors. Getting in touch with the night sky stirs something almost intangible in the human being – that place in each of us where we have a deep longing for wonder.”

How will it work?

Step one: Prior to the event, designated Emmet County staff will measure the sky quality, using a Sky Quality Meter that registers darkness levels, in St. Ignace and in Mackinaw City, and Petoskey and Harbor Springs.

Step two: Between now and the event, area residents, business owners and visitors will pledge to turn out the lights and plan for an evening in the dark!

Step three: On August 12, between 10 and 11 p.m. turn out your lights across Little Traverse Bay and the Straits of Mackinac!

The winning community from each pair of towns will receive media recognition and an award from Emmet County.

Once again, the Mackinac Bridge Authority will participate in the Straits challenge by turning off the cable lighting on the Mighty Mac, and the Michigan Department of Transportation is getting involved as well!  “The motivating intent behind this event is to raise awareness about the effective use of light at night. The more participation we have, the more we can effect positive change in the way we steward the vanishing natural resource of the night sky,” said Adams.

“The beauty of our natural northern Michigan surroundings is a fundamental reason why tourists choose to visit the Straits area, and why residents choose to live here,” said Bob Sweeney, Executive Secretary of the Mackinac Bridge Authority. “While many people come north to see the Mackinac Bridge lit, we’re happy that our participation in the Lights Out Challenge helps improve the terrific views of our night sky.”

The communities that achieve greater darkness will be announced in the week following the event.

The Lights Out initiative, led by Emmet County, includes the combined efforts of the Petoskey Regional Chamber of Commerce, Harbor Springs Area Chamber of Commerce, the City of Harbor Springs, the City of Petoskey, Bay View Association, the Mayors and Village Managers of St. Ignace and Mackinaw City, Mackinaw City Village Council Members, Visitors’ Bureaus, and Downtown Development Authorities, as well as the Mackinac Bridge Authority and the Michigan Department of Transportation.

“Truly it takes the entire community to protect the vast and inspiring resource of the deep, dark night sky that we enjoy in Northwest Michigan,” Adams said. “This voluntary, awareness-raising event shines the light on the unique ways Emmet County informs our community, region and state about the importance of protecting the night sky.”

If you have questions about the Lights Out Challenge, call Adams at (231) 348-1713 or email darksky@emmetcounty.org.

LIGHTS OUT PLEDGE FORM – STRAITS

LIGHTS OUT PLEDGE FORM – LITTLE TRAVERSE BAY

About the Perseids: What to expect in 2016

The Perseid Meteor Shower is indeed one of the most popular during the year because of the rate of meteors it produces and in 2016, despite the light of waxing gibbous Moon, astronomers are predicting a potential outburst of meteors, due to the orbital influence of Jupiter. This could potentially double the normal rates of meteors seen, though viewers should note that this is a prediction and not a guaranteed forecast, Adams noted. The Lights Out Challenge and Northern Michigan’s naturally dark skies attract thousands during the peak days of the shower. Here’s what to expect if you are planning to view the Perseids this year:

The meteor shower is most active when the constellation Perseus is highest overhead, which is after midnight local time, though there will be plenty of potential activity before that time. The shower peaks between Aug. 11 and 13; our event is scheduled for Friday night, Aug. 12. Sunset Aug. 12 is at 8:53 pm, with astronomical twilight extending until 10:52 p.m., after which time the only natural light in the sky will be from the Moon and stars.

Meteors can be seen in any region of the sky. The constellation Perseus, which lends its name to this shower, will be visible rising in the northeast along the Milky Way, following in the wake of the constellation Cassiopeia. The parent comet of the Perseid Meteor Shower is Swift-Tuttle, discovered independently by Msrs Swift and Tuttle in July of 1862.

Adams also noted the story of Perseus from ancient Greek mythology and it’s tie to this annual meteor shower: “Perseus is a son of Zeus, who transformed himself into a shower of golden stars and rained down upon the mortal princess Danae when he spied her confined to a vault in the Earth where her father had hidden her after the oracle predicted she would have a son that would slay him. Perseus went on to slay the Medusa and free Andromeda, and the meteor shower that comes from his region of the sky was believed by the ancients to be his gift of strength to humanity as the daylight hours begin to wane toward autumn.”

 

Our efforts were recently featured by the International Dark Sky Association to help support other communities in raising awareness about night skies~click here for that article, and follow us on Facebook for the latest up-to-date announcements. Help your community win the challenge, turn out the lights and count your lucky stars!

Aug
19
Fri
New in 2016: Starlight Trivia on Friday nights! @ Shoreline Dark Sky Viewing Area
Aug 19 @ 8:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Friday night trivia tests your knowledge of the stars

Friday night trivia tests your knowledge of the stars ~ photo by Aliana Lee

Fridays throughout the summer, starting July 1 (and unless there is a formal program scheduled) join us at the shoreline viewing area with your favorite team of family and friends for Starlight Trivia, designed to test and delight your knowledge of the stars! In the event of inclement weather, Starlight Trivia will take place at the Heritage Village Pavilion, across the street from Headlands main entrance. There are prizes to win, star names to learn, and plenty of fun to be had!

Remaining Starlight Trivia dates are July 29; and Aug. 5, 19, 26, and trivia will conclude with one last hoorah on Sept. 2.

Aug
26
Fri
New in 2016: Starlight Trivia on Friday nights! @ Shoreline Dark Sky Viewing Area
Aug 26 @ 8:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Friday night trivia tests your knowledge of the stars

Friday night trivia tests your knowledge of the stars ~ photo by Aliana Lee

Fridays throughout the summer, starting July 1 (and unless there is a formal program scheduled) join us at the shoreline viewing area with your favorite team of family and friends for Starlight Trivia, designed to test and delight your knowledge of the stars! In the event of inclement weather, Starlight Trivia will take place at the Heritage Village Pavilion, across the street from Headlands main entrance. There are prizes to win, star names to learn, and plenty of fun to be had!

Remaining Starlight Trivia dates are July 29; and Aug. 5, 19, 26, and trivia will conclude with one last hoorah on Sept. 2.

Sep
2
Fri
New in 2016: Starlight Trivia on Friday nights! @ Shoreline Dark Sky Viewing Area
Sep 2 @ 8:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Friday night trivia tests your knowledge of the stars

Friday night trivia tests your knowledge of the stars ~ photo by Aliana Lee

Fridays throughout the summer, starting July 1 (and unless there is a formal program scheduled) join us at the shoreline viewing area with your favorite team of family and friends for Starlight Trivia, designed to test and delight your knowledge of the stars! In the event of inclement weather, Starlight Trivia will take place at the Heritage Village Pavilion, across the street from Headlands main entrance. There are prizes to win, star names to learn, and plenty of fun to be had!

Remaining Starlight Trivia dates are July 29; and Aug. 5, 19, 26, and trivia will conclude with one last hoorah on Sept. 2.

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!
Jul
1
Sat
Nature’s Fireworks with the Sky Giants Saturn and Jupiter @ Waterfront Event Center
Jul 1 @ 9:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Nature's Fireworks with the Sky Giants Saturn and Jupiter @ Waterfront Event Center

It’s a weekend full of fireworks across the land, and up in the sky the giant planets are also putting on a show: The Roman gods Saturn and Jupiter were known to the Ancient Greeks as Cronus and Zeus, a father and son with a dynamic fate that lends itself to celebrating a summer weekend of nature’s very own fireworks. Tonight, visitors to Headlands can peek through one of our portable telescopes in the event center viewing area, and take a tour of our Observatory Tower. The Saturn giant and his Olympian son Jupiter come together in conjunction only every 20 years (the next will be in December, 2020), creating a triangle form that precesses through the sky throughout history. Tonight we’ll prepare for the coming conjunction by learning about the connections between Saturn and Jupiter in mythology, their influence on the world of astronomy, and more! Program will be held both indoors and out. Please note that many Emmet County communities host fireworks displays on this holiday weekend, none of which are visible from Headlands. Also, fireworks are not allowed at Headlands, due to the sensitive habitat. Our main parking lot is open and accessible to the public (please park with your headlights facing away from the shore), and with 68 parking spaces, it can fill quickly. Once the main lot is full, guests park at the Headlands entrance and walk the one-mile paved route to the viewing area. Please be prepared with red filter flashlights and things you can easily carry. For more information, please call 231-348-1713.

 

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 

 

 

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.