Programs & Events
Dark Sky Park Program Coordinator
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 email@example.com and be sure to follow our Facebook page for more news and photos.
June 20, 2016 @ 8:30 pm – 10:30 pm
WHERE: Headlands Dark Sky Viewing Area
Just like the human being that breathes in a regular rhythm throughout every moment of every day, so, too, does the Earth follow a regular and predictable rhythm through its annual cycle of seasons. The longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, referred to as “Summer Solstice” arrives June 20th, the same day that Sun and Moon will balance the visible horizon with Full Moon rising in the east as the first Summer Sun sets in the west.
“Full Moon at Summer Solstice only happens once every 19 years, and it means there will be no real darkness to speak of for an entire 24-hour period,” said Mary Stewart Adams, Emmet County’s Program Director for the Headlands International Dark Sky Park. “This provides a really unique opportunity to consider the harmonious rhythm of the natural world, and how, despite our most sophisticated technological advances, we are healthiest when we live in harmony with these larger rhythms.
“If we consider the cycle of the Earth’s year like the in-breathing and the out-breathing of the human being, then Summer Solstice is like the out-breath, so I am very excited that we will have the opportunity to also work with local yoga instructor Mary Reilly at this event, to bring beautiful emphasis and awareness to our own breathing.”
In addition to leading participants in a basic yoga breathing experience, Mary Reilly will share the story of the “Song of the Immortal Gander”, a beautiful and timeless story of the double nature of the gander as it relates to being human and to the breath.
“As many of our local community members know, Mary is a certified Iyengar Yoga teacher and director of North Woods Yoga in Petoskey (www.northwoodsyoga.com). She has studied extensively in India and has been teaching yoga in Northern Michigan for thirty years. The expertise as well as the tale she is bringing about the “Immortal Gander” are a perfect fit for this time of year, and for what we can see rising up in the night sky at this time, so this will be a really rich experience,” said Adams.
The Headlands Summer Solstice program will take place at the shoreline viewing area from 8:30 to 10:30 pm, and to make ready, here is a list of what’s happening celestially that day:
- The Sun will rise at 5:49 am on June 20
- Half an hour later, the Moon will set in the west at 6:17 am, just 45 minutes shy of being at total Full Phase
- The Moon will be Full at 7:02 am (because this Moon arrives at Full Phase before Sun achieves its solstice moment, this is the last Full Moon of the Spring)
- Sun then arrives at its Solstice moment, when it is highest above the celestial equator, at 6:34 pm
- Sun will set in the west at 9:32 pm, while the Moon rises in the east at the exact moment
“This year’s Solstice marks a moment of celestial superlatives that lends itself to taking a deep, cosmic breath, so we’ll take advantage of the night to learn our way around the sky, and to consider the dynamic, rhythmic motion of things,” said Adams.
Parking at Headlands while we are under construction is at the entrance. Guests then take a 15 minute (about one mile) walk through the woods along a paved and gravel route to the shoreline viewing area for the program. Bring camp chairs and blankets, and prepare for weather that is 10 degrees cooler than inland. Programs are interactive and always include guidance about what’s overhead, with telescope on site for enhanced viewing
Harvest Moon is the Full Moon closest to Equinox each year, and the Headlands International Dark Sky Park in Mackinaw City is planning a dance to celebrate the change of the season.
The Harvest Moon Dance will take place Saturday night, Sept. 17, under the festival tent with live music featuring the Jill Jack Band, of Detroit. Jill and her players will set the mood with their performance beginning at 7:30 p.m., followed by sunset at 7:47 p.m. and Harvest Moon rising at 8:30 p.m. The program is free and no reservations are necessary, but come early to get your spot on the dance floor. The program is scheduled until 10 p.m. The Jill Jack Band is known for entertaining with strong audience connection and their high-energy rock and blues that can segue into original folk ballads, demonstrating why Jill has won numerous Detroit Music Awards, including 2015’s Outstanding American Songwriter Award.
While most evenings visitors to the park must walk a mile in to the dark sky viewing area along the shoreline, on this evening a tent will be placed near the Headlands entrance.
“Jill is an exceptional talent,” said Mary Stewart Adams, Headlands Dark Sky Park Program Director, quoting from a recent Detroit Free Press article which reported that “her voice can soar like opera and smoke like the blues … one of the strongest voices in Detroit, or in the country for that matter.”
“Harvest Moon is all about celebrating the bounty of the seasons and the work of cultivating a healthy harmony in our lives and the things we must tend, ” added Adams. “Of all the Moon’s phases, Full Moon is like the release point, when everything we’re gathering up in the cycle is let go, so the natural world can have its turn. When it comes to Harvest Moon, we dance, to celebrate everything that goes into a success and challenge of getting to a harmonious experience of nature and its seasons.”
And what a season it’s been at the Headlands. With construction of the new Waterfront Event Center still restricting parking on site at Headlands, guests all season long have trekked one mile through the woods to the shoreline viewing area where falling stars, the Milky Way, and the elusive Northern Lights have held imaginations with wonder, Adams noted.
“I’m particularly looking forward to this event because it’s a great way to show our gratitude for the goodwill of everyone who came out this season,” said Adams. “We welcomed thousands and thousands of guests to the Headlands; it’s been another amazing summer under the night sky in Emmet County.”
The waxing crescent Moon sets a romantic stage for this beautiful Summer shower of falling stars; come early for the program, then stay late for making wishes! The Moon will set at midnight, leaving in its wake the greater part of the Delta Aquarid Meteor Shower activity, which usually peaks around 2 a.m. Don’t be fooled, the Delta Aquarid Meteors can be sparse, but they leave a persistent train and they move slowly, because of their sideways angle of approach through Earth’s atmosphere.
Parking for event is available near the Waterfront Event Center, and program will be held outdoors on the event center stage, and in the dome, with views through our telescopes (please note that meteor showers are best seen by looking at a wide open sky with the naked eye, not through a telescope).
With the advent of meteor shower science in the 1800s, scientists have learned that meteor showers are connected to comets that whiz through our planetary system, leaving a trail of stuff in their wake as they burn up in their fall toward the Sun. Earth rhythmically passes through this stuff on its own orbit about the Sun, and this “stuff”, sometimes particles no larger than a grain of sand, burns up as it whizzes through Earth atmosphere, looking like bright stars falling through the sky.
According to the folks at www.earthsky.org, the parent body of the Delta Aquarid meteor shower is not known with certainty. It was once thought to have originated from the breakup of what are now the Marsden and Kracht sungrazing comets. More recently, the Comet 96P Machholz has loomed as the primary candidate for being the Delta Aquarids’ parent body.
Donald Machholz discovered this comet in 1986. It’s a short-period comet whose orbit carries it around the Sun once in a little over five years. At aphelion – its greatest distance from the Sun – this comet goes out beyond the orbit of Jupiter. At perihelion – its closest point to the Sun – Comet 96P Machholz swings well inside Mercury’s orbit.
Comet 96P/Machholz last came to perihelion on July 14, 2012 and will next come to perihelion on October 27, 2017.