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
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.”
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!
Nationally-acclaimed and award-winning night sky and northern lights photographer extraordinaire Shawn Malone of Lake Superior Photo is back by popular demand for an exciting hands-on lecture and workshop at the Headlands Guest House , just as Spring Equinox approaches and the aurora get more active! The program will occur in two parts, with a free lecture open to the public, followed by a hands-on workshop that requires advance registration at 231-348-1713 due to the limited number of spaces available.
Malone says she can’t remember a time when she wasn’t keen on capturing and recording the world around her through photography. “There’s always been a latent interest. Even as a kid I carried around a film instamatic.”
Malone turned to the dark side, the dark side of night, that is, to photograph nature at its most elusive and expressive in the late 1990s, when she photographed her first aurora, also known as the Northern Lights.
Since then, Malone has enjoyed an enviable reputation through national media, with award-winning recognition from Smithsonian Magazine, publication in National Geographic, and with her work appearing multiple times on NBC Nightly News. “I consider Smithsonian and National Geographic the two biggest (photography) institutions in the world. Their recognition was humbling.”
Malone, who sells her work around the world from her gallery and studio, Lake Superior Photo, in Marquette, MI, will share the ups and downs of this success, and the do’s and dont’s of night sky photography at the Headlands Guest House during a two-part event that will include a public lecture and a hands-on photography workshop. The workshop portion of the program is by advance registration only.
Malone says that her current focus in photography is on a “wet plate collodion” process with large format cameras. “It’s a turn-of-the-century process that preceded film and instead uses chemicals processed on tin or glass. I’m looking forward to getting back to the roots of the photographic process and image that is in a totally different direction from anything I’ve done in the past, kind of in rebellion against the digital age and lack of authenticity of photography with all the over-the-top manipulation that is occurring these days.”
Reservations are not necessary for the lecture portion of Malone’s program at the Headlands, but are required for the hands-on workshop that will follow, by calling 231-348-1713 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Space is limited for the workshop and a suggested donation of $10 is requested.
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.
At Winter Solstice, the Sun achieves its position furthest south of the celestial equator, and here in the north, we enter the dark stillness of the snowy season. For this afternoon’s event, we will gather inside to engage the quiet dark and stillness with candlelight and rhythm, by handrolling beeswax candles, then drumming to the sacred rhythm of the season with Northern Michigan Drum Village. Sunset on this, the year’s shortest day, will happen at 4:57 pm, so there will be plenty of time for touring the solstice evening sky outdoors as well. $5 at the door (for supplies); we will have drums on hand, and you are encouraged to bring your own, if you have one! This event is sponsored by DTE Foundation.