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 firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to follow our Facebook page for more news and photos.
Lantern walking through November woods at Headlands
We know it’s still football season under the big stadium lights of fall, but it’s also the peak of the lion’s meteor shower and you’re invited to join us under the dark of night at Headlands for a beautiful experience under the starry skies.
Program Director Mary Stewart Adams will meet guests at the Headlands entrance and give a guided tour through the beautiful moonlit woods to the viewing area at the shoreline, to catch the falling stars and hear further tales of the night. This is a one mile walk in the woods, and guests are invited to bring lanterns, to coincide with seasonal traditions of taking lantern walks into dark November nights. Please be prepared with walking shoes and layers of warm clothes. The Leonid Meteor Shower peaks overhead at this time, as earth travels through the wake of starry stuff left in the trail of the Comet Temple-Tuttle.
“The Leonid is a really variable meteor shower,” said Adams, “but it’s also one of the most historically significant, because it gave rise to the science and study of meteor showers when it caused an incredible outburst in the early 1800s. And it’s November, when tradition holds that taking a walk by lantern light is done to celebrate the strength of inner light despite the challenge of growing, outer darkness.”
The Moon will be Full just a few days prior to the peak of the Leonid Meteor Shower, and while that can diminish views of the less bright meteors, there is still the promise of beautiful stargazing. Orion will be solidly over the horizon in the east, chasing the star cluster of the Pleiades across the sky, and the Andromeda Galaxy will be seen spiraling directly overhead. In addition to providing star maps and a guided walking tour by lantern light, we’ll have our telescopes out for peering deeper into the night while we wait for wishing stars to fall through the sky! Participants should dress for low temperatures. “These colder nights make for some great stargazing because there’s less haze in the atmosphere, and the dark seems to be more velvety and richer” said Adams.
The radiant of the Leonid Meteor Shower is in the sickle, or head region of the mighty Lion
The last New Moon of 2016 occurs during the sacred season of dark and quiet that bridges the old year to the new, traditionally known as the 12 Days of Christmas, allowing for unique contemplation of where we’ve been, and where we’re going! You’re invited to contemplate this passage of time in the old growth forest of Headlands, and to participate in engaging storytelling of the night sky. The stars of the season have lent themselves to many cultural tales and traditions, some of which will be shared both indoors and out, especially since these 12 days correspond to the 12 months of the year, and these to the 12 constellations of the zodiac. In addition to snowshoe hiking through the woods, guests can participate in making a workbook/journal designed to allow for contemplation of life experience relative to the stars.
“Winter stargazing can be deeply satisfying, because the cool air makes the night crisp and clear,” said Mary Stewart Adams, Program Director for the Headlands International Dark Sky Park.
Program happens rain, snow or shine! If we can’t take to the trails with our snowshoes, then we’ll hike the woods and enjoy the quiet outdoors with tales of the night sky.
Limited number of snowshoes available by reservation, but it is best to bring your own. (231) 348-1713 to reserve a pair.
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.
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…
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
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 email@example.com. Space is limited for the workshop and a suggested donation of $10 is requested.
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!
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.
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.