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.

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
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.

Jan
7
Sat
Plan Your New Year with the Stars @ Guest House Headlands International Dark Sky Park
Jan 7 @ 4:30 pm – 6:00 pm

Planning your new year with the stars

In ages gone by, community life was centered around the observance of celestial phenomena, with the consequence that the sites from which this observing took place would naturally be the place for celebrating life’s most significant moments. At Headlands, we’re stepping into the wisdom of this tradition with our first program of the New Year, during which we will highlight all the terrific phenomena coming toward us in 2017, designed to support all of us in our effort to find harmony in the greater rhythm of things! Though not required, we recommend you bring calendars and writing instruments so you can be a scribe of the stars all year long by knowing in advance how to center your year around meteor showers, eclipses, and all the other starry events unfolding overhead. During this program we will provide specific dates and times for the celestial highlights of the year, with viewing tips and the cultural history of the phenomena.

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!
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

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
21
Sat
9th Annual Headlands Challenge ~ Walk like an Egyptian! @ Meet at the Park entrance
Oct 21 @ 8:00 pm – 10:00 pm
The Orionid Meteor Shower peaks overnight October 21, when Earth travels through the trail of cosmic mystery left in the wake of Halley's Comet. The Meteor Shower is named for the region of the sky in front of which it appears, which is the Orion region fo teh sky, also associated by the Ancient Egyptians with Osiris, pictured here (for costume inspiration!).

The Orionid Meteor Shower peaks overnight October 21, when Earth travels through the trail of cosmic mystery left in the wake of Halley’s Comet. The Meteor Shower is named for the region of the sky in front of which it appears, which is the Orion region of the sky, also associated by the Ancient Egyptians with Osiris, pictured here (for costume inspiration!).

Every year in October, the Headlands International Dark Sky Park dares visitors to take a one-mile walk through the woods along our candlelit path to the shoreline, where mischief and storytelling await, no matter the wind and weather. This year the October 21st event marks the 9th annual challenge, and participants are encouraged to commit to this year’s Egyptian theme, chosen because of the peak of the Orionid Meteor Shower the same night.

“The Headlands challenge was the very first ‘dark sky’ event we ever held at the Headlands. We started it in 2009, two years before we received our international dark sky designation. It was planned to coincide with the worldwide astronomy movement to get people outside viewing the sky in honor of the 400th anniversary of Galileo being the first person to use a telescope,” said Headlands Program Director Mary Stewart Adams. “But this year, it’s all about Egypt, because there is evidence that the Egyptians linked the constellation Orion to their sacred god of the dead, Osiris, and the meteor shower that comes from the Orion region of the sky will come to its peak on October 21st, the night of our event. It sets a terrific seasonal mood.”

The Headlands Challenge is part of the “Triple Fright Night” events taking place October 21st in the northwest region of Emmet County, and which include trick-or-treating at Heritage Village from 6 to 8 pm, the Headlands Challenge from 8 to 10 pm and the haunted McGulpin Point Lighthouse until 11 pm. Take in one, two, or all three events, which include games, treats, seasonal decoration, storytelling, stargazing, and the meteor shower.

“October skies can be dramatic, what with the high winds and clouds, and the thickest part of the Milky Way setting to make way for the deeper dark of the less populated star fields of the Orion region,” said Adams. “It’s just the perfect time of year to challenge yourself to be outside and brave the elements.”

The Headlands Challenge and Triple Fright Night are free events, family friendly, and open to the public. Events happen rain, sleet, snow, or shine. Participants can park at Heritage Village and trick-or-treat, then cross the street and walk the one-mile candlelit path to the Headlands Waterfront Event center for games and storytelling at 9 pm. The haunted McGulpin Point Lighthouse will remain open until 11 pm, and can be accessed from Heritage Village by free shuttle.

For event information and details, please call the Headlands International Dark Sky Park Office at 231-427-1001. You may also email at darksky@emmetcounty.org

 

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.