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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Each year, Emmet County’s International Dark Sky Park at the Headlands partners up with its local communities in a friendly area-wide competition to see who can get darkest in the 10 to 11 pm hour the night of the Perseid Meteor Shower, Friday, August 11 in 2017. The Mackinac Bridge Authority turns off its cable lights; St. Ignace disappears into the mists like Brigadoon; Mackinaw City turns the lights down low; and visitors, residents, and business owners around the Little Traverse Bay communities of Petoskey and Harbor Springs get a chance to show off their stars by putting the lights out. Please note that participation is voluntary, so help us get the word out!
During the challenge, we host an event at Headlands that includes the myth and science of the heroic Perseid Meteor Shower, and we work hard to dispel the sensation being stirred up by an unbridled internet mania that has recently given rise to stories like this being the brightest meteor shower in the history of forever. This is simply not true. In 2017, the Perseid Meteor Shower is diminished by near-full moonlight (Moon will be Full on August 7, 2017, which means that the nights of August 11, 12, and 13, the Moon is at waning gibbous phase. It will rise up just after 11 pm, and stay up all night, when the meteor shower is at its peak). Still, the nights can be beautiful, and the Moon has its own loveliness, even when it’s swallowing up the starshine!
No reservations are necessary for this event, but you are encouraged to arrive early to secure a parking space near the Waterfront Event Center (at least an hour before program time). Once the parking lot is full, guests park near the entrance to Headlands and walk one mile to the shoreline and event center viewing areas. You are welcome to bring snacks and beverages, and please bring something to sit on and dress for temperatures 10 degrees cooler than inland. Though meteor showers are best witnessed with the naked eye, we will open the Observatory for public viewing during a portion of this evening, on a first-come, first-served basis (entry numbers will be distributed, for those interested, to save you from having to stand inside in line, and we ask you to bear with us while we sort out a system that can accommodate the wonderful demand!).
Program happens rain or shine, though inclement weather diminishes views of the falling stars!
For more information, please call 231-348-1713 or email email@example.com
If you aren’t able to get into the path of totality for the biggest celestial event of the year, you can view partiality through the solar telescope at Headlands but PLEASE NOTE: Only 78% of the Sun will appear to be eclipsed from our location.
We will have our Observatory open with the Lunt Solar Telescope streaming live eclipse action onto the large screens in our Event Center program space, and solar filter telescopes set up outside for safe viewing. In addition, we will have a limited number of eclipse glasses for sale. We expect to be busy, so plan your visit with the following in mind:
The entire process from first contact of Moon with Sun until its end is about two hours and 40 minutes.
The Moon will begin to eclipse the Sun at 12:59 pm, edt.
Maximum eclipse, during which 78% of Sun appears blocked by Moon, will happen at 2:23 pm.
The eclipse will end at 3:39 pm.
The best plan is to consider the event like an open house, and to decide which thing you most want to see, first contact, maximum eclipse, or the “dying moments”. Then, you can come for that experience, and stay for all or part of the rest.
At Headlands we will also have live video stream from the path of totality, and eclipse-related crafts. Our Program Director, Mary Stewart Adams, will do occasional Facebook live video from Oregon where she will be at the leading edge of the path of totality.
We expect to be busy, so arrive early for parking near the Waterfront Event Center, or be prepared to take a beautiful walk through the woods from the parking at the entrance. Remember, this eclipse will occur during broad daylight, so a woods walk is a pleasant way to journey!
Bring snacks and beverages.
If you would like more information about this, or any of our events, please call 231-348-1713, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com.