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.

Nov
18
Fri
‘Friday Night (No) Lights’ for the Leonids @ Shoreline viewing area at Headlands
Nov 18 @ 10:00 pm – 11:45 pm

 

Lantern walking through November woods at Headlands

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 of the Lion

The radiant of the Leonid Meteor Shower is in the sickle, or head region of the mighty Lion

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.

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

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.

 

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.

Aug
11
Fri
Perseid Meteor Shower and Lights Out Challenge @ Waterfront Event Center
Aug 11 @ 9:00 pm – 11:00 pm

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 darksky@emmetcounty.org