Oh, Starry Night

Michigan offers plenty of options for stargazing.
Night Sky, Hyden, Western Australia.
Photography courtesy of Thinkstock

Oh, how we love the heavens at night, that vast and beautiful expanse of stars, planets and constellations. They captivate us, mesmerize and open our minds, whether sitting on the dock, by the campfire or lounging on the beach. Their legends and lore are the mythology of ancient cultures — the expressions of civilizations past. The immensity of it all resonates within, often evoking awe.

Those who look may see Cygnus the Swan or Aquila the Eagle, perhaps Lyra the Lyre or Scorpius the Scorpion. All are summer constellations in the Michigan sky, where the Big Dipper, part of Ursa Major (the great bear) is well-known. In summer, the magic of The Milky Way spills across the night sky,  tantalizing star watchers with its inestimable beauty. It is one of many night sky attractions.

Starwatching has grown in popularity, and Michigan now has seven designated Dark Sky destinations. Each is known for its darkness and spectacular starscapes that can be observed with the naked eye, camera, telescope or binoculars.

“For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.”
— Vincent van Gogh

Six locations are state-designated Dark Sky Preserves, managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. All are accessible day and night; all are great places for people to gather and observe. The preserves are found at Lake Hudson Recreation Area in Clayton, Negwegon State Park in Harrisville, Port Crescent State Park in Port Austin, Rockport Recreation Area and Thompson’s Harbor State Park in Rogers City and Wilderness State Park southwest of Mackinac City in Carp Lake. More information about each is found at bit.ly/DarkSkyPreserves.

A seventh destination, The Headlands International Dark Sky Park (midarkskypark.org), is an Emmet County park. Its premier status was conferred in 2011 by the International Dark Sky Association, an Arizona nonprofit dedicated to preserving dark skies around the globe. Headlands, at the time, was the sixth International Dark Sky Park designation in the U.S. and ninth in the world. Today, there are more than 50.

In this issue of BLUE, we celebrate the mystery and wonder of the stars and the growing movement to preserve night skies, so the magnificence of the heavens can be enjoyed by all. We share select night sky visages from some of Michigan’s top photographers. Look and enjoy.

Porcupine Mountain Stars

Porcupine Mountain Stars
Photography by Scott Castelein

An eerie but colorful glow of the northern lights appears on the horizon under a dark sky full of stars, while I am camped on a cliff overlooking the Porcupine Mountains.

Dreams of Stars

Dream of Stars
Photography by Shawn Malone

The aurora made an appearance on a warm summer night on the shores of Lake Superior in Sand River. I focused on the beach grass to add a dreamy mood to this image full of endless stars.

Sweet Starry Peas

Sweet Starry Peas
Photography by Heather Higham

I was setting up to shoot the Milky Way in the Port Oneida district of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park, and I kept getting tripped up by tangles in what I thought was just grass. When I shined a flashlight down, I was surprised to find cascades
of blooming sweet pea. Using my shirt to filter my flashlight, I set to work creating the unplanned image that ended up being one of my favorites of the night.

Under the Stars

Under the Stars
Photography by John McCormick

The Milky Way Galaxy towered above the D.H. Day Barn in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. While shooting this, I heard a loud growl from somewhere in the valley where the barn is. The hair on my neck stood up. I’ll never forget it.

Black Locust Trees at Night

Black Locust Trees at night
Photography by Kristina Lishawa

On this night, the historic black locust trees in Glen Haven were dramatically backlit by the northern lights, brilliant stars and a little bit of Milky Way. It was captivating.

Howard Meyerson is the managing editor of Michigan BLUE Magazine.

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