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.

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…

Feb
11
Sat
The Romance of the Stars @ Guest House Headlands International Dark Sky Park
Feb 11 @ 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm
 
 
In February we peer into the opposite sweep of stars in our Milky Way spiral than is pictured here from late summer 2016, which can make the individual stars appear more brilliant

In February we peer into the opposite sweep of stars in our Milky Way spiral than is pictured here from late summer 2016 at Headlands, which can make the individual stars appear more brilliant. Photo by Joe Garza.

In the heart of winter and the approaching Valentine’s Day, Headlands will host special guests, musician Laszlo Slomovitz and poet Jennifer Burd with their extraordinary project of setting the mystic poems of Rumi and Hafiz to song. “From the cultural perspective, poetry is the closest we can come to the stars, and through this program, Laszlo demonstrates the beauty of such an idea,” said Program Director Mary Stewart Adams. “Tonight is an ideal date night for couples and individuals young and old, newly in love or celebrating the enduring romance of a fixed-star union.” Guests to tonight’s program may bring snack and beverage and arrive early to catch sunset at 6 pm, or arrive 6:30-6:45 pm to park, get settled and wait for the show to begin’ plan to stay late, because the Moon will touch the heart star Regulus in the midnight sky! “This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment…”~Rumi

Mar
18
Sat
Catch a falling star…on camera with Shawn Malone @ Guest House at Headlands
Mar 18 @ 4:00 pm – 8:00 pm
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Shawn Malone is known far and wide for her exceptional skill in capturing the northern lights, as shown here!

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 darksky@emmetcounty.org. Space is limited for the workshop and a suggested donation of $10 is requested.

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!
Apr
21
Fri
Celebrate International Dark Sky Week at Michigan’s International Dark Sky Park @ Waterfront Event Center
Apr 21 @ 8:00 pm – Apr 28 @ 10:00 pm
Celebrate International Dark Sky Week at Michigan's International Dark Sky Park @ Waterfront Event Center

Every year during the April New Moon, people around the world join in a celebration of dark skies, and at Headlands there will two opportunities for experiencing the stars with story, song, telescopes, and exceptional views. Because of the Moon phase, this year’s Dark Sky Week also coincides with the peak of the Lyrid Meteor Shower, a wonderful stream of falling stars from the Comet C/1861G radiant near the border between the constellations Lyra, the harp, and Hercules, the mighty hero. Of all recorded meteor showers, this one has the longest recorded history, even though its peak is of narrow duration. Catch the peak of the shower at the opening program for International Dark Sky Week on Friday, April 21st from 8 to 10 pm (sunset is at 8:33 pm), or join us for crescent Moon setting into the lake at the close of Dark Sky Week on Friday, April 28th, also from 8 to 10 pm (sunset is at 8:42 pm, followed tonight by crescent moonset at 11:29 pm). Click here to access a nifty graphic illustrating the Lyrid Meteor Shower. Note: Headlands staff will be on site to greet you and direct you to parking for program access. If you have questions, please call 231-348-1713, and see you there!

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.

 

May
20
Sat
Preparing for the Great American Eclipse @ Mackinaw City High School
May 20 @ 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm
The Great American Eclipse, as rendered by Tyler Nordgren, artist astronomer extraordinaire

The Great American Eclipse, as rendered by Tyler Nordgren, artist, author,  and astronomer extraordinaire

Join us a for a virtual interview with Tyler Nordgren, Professor of Physics and Astronomy, University of Redlands, in anticipation of what is already being predicted to be the most-watched celestial phenomena in history ~the Great American Eclipse of August, 2017. Dr. Nordgren has recently published the book “Sun, Moon and Earth ~ The History of Solar Eclipses from Omens of Doom to Einstein and Exoplanets”, in anticipation of the Total Solar Eclipse, and we are thrilled to offer audiences this opportunity to hear him speak, and to ask questions of one of the premier researchers of the stars in our region of the world! Note: Because the Headlands Waterfront Event Center is not yet complete, this event will take place at Mackinaw City Public High School, one mile east of Headlands at 609 West Central Avenue, Mackinaw City.

“I am thrilled with the participation of Mackinaw City Public Schools in this event, both because of the opportunity it provides for students and the public to get up-front with an exceptional individual in the world of astronomy, and because it highlights the role of educational partnership that is so vital to our activity as an internationally designated dark sky park,” said Headlands Program Director Mary Stewart Adams.

About Dr. Nordgren: earning his PhD in astronomy at Cornell University, Dr. Nordgren has used modern observatories around the world as part of his research. Dr. Nordgren has written peer-reviewed articles on subjects ranging from dark matter in galaxies to the pulsation of stars that are the foundation of our understanding of the size and age of the Universe.  In 2004, NASA’s Spirit and Opportunity rovers landed on Mars carrying sundials, or “Marsdials” on board which Dr. Nordgren helped design with a team of seven other scientists and artists (a third Marsdial was included on the Curiosity Rover). Since 2005, he has worked with the U.S. National Park Service to promote astronomy education in U.S. national parks where the public still has a chance to see a natural nocturnal landscape that includes an unobstructed view of the Universe beyond our own atmosphere. Dr. Nordgren has helped document this vanishing landscape with award-winning night sky photography that has been on display in galleries from New York City to Flagstaff, Arizona and is on display in a number of national parks. In addition, Dr. Nordgren has also developed a popular poster campaign in conjunction with the National Park Service to “See the Milky Way” in America’s parks where “Half the park is after dark.” Dr. Nordgren now regularly tours the national parks giving talks to visitors and rangers alike educating both on the beauty of the night sky and how our national parks open a window on the Universe beyond.

Note: This event is designed to raise awareness about the eclipse, which will bisect the United States from the Pacific northwest to the Atlantic southeast on August 21, 2017. To view the total eclipsing of the Sun, observers must be directly in the path of the of the eclipse shadow. From Headlands, the Moon will appear to only partially eclipse the Sun on August 21, 2017.

Sun, Moon, Earth ~ The History of Solar Eclipses from Omens of Doom to Einstein and Exoplanets, by Tyler Nordgren

Sun, Moon, Earth ~ The History of Solar Eclipses from Omens of Doom to Einstein and Exoplanets, by Tyler Nordgren

 

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

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.

 

Jul
28
Fri
Making Wishes on the Lucky Stars of the Delta Aquarid Meteor Shower @ Waterfront Event Center
Jul 28 @ 9:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Making Wishes on the Lucky Stars of the Delta Aquarid Meteor Shower @ Waterfront Event Center

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.