A Stargazers’ Delight

Headlands International Dark Sky Park is opening its new observatory this year and hosting a series of events celebrating the night sky.
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Headlands Milky Way
Photography by Robert de Jonge

It’s going to be a stellar year for stargazers and other nature aficionados planning a northern Michigan getaway. Headlands International Dark Sky Park is opening its new observatory this year and hosting a series of events celebrating the night sky.

With the addition of an observatory, Headlands, 15675 Headlands Road, Mackinaw City, is offering public viewing nights every weekend. Visitors will find a deep space telescope at the observatory, as well as a solar telescope used for daytime sky observation.

The park’s event schedule is full of don’t-miss events while continuing to be a celebrated up-north destination. The 550-acre county park was awarded its international designation in 2011 by the International Dark Sky Association. It is one of six U.S. parks with that designation and nine worldwide.

The park has 5 miles of hiking trails and nearly 3 miles of shoreline. Visitors are encouraged to bring red-filtered lights to maintain the dark sky environment.  These can be created simply by placing red tape or other red material over a flashlight or headlamp.

“The night sky has inspired some of the most incredible things in history: art, literature, religious practice. I refer to myself as a ‘starlore historian,’ I tell the stories so they don’t get lost.”
— Mary Stewart Adams

Kicking off this year’s calendar events is a statewide astronomy night, April 20, for which Headlands partners annually with Michigan State University. The observatory will be open to the public that night and with additional telescopes on hand, providing an optimal opportunity to view the 2018 Lyrid Meteor Shower occurring over the weekend. Another must-do is the Evening Sky Cruise, which is offered about five times between June and September. Partnering with Shepler’s Ferry, Headlands Program Director Mary Stewart Adams narrates each cruise, which departs on the Straits of Mackinac at sunset.

“The night sky has inspired some of the most incredible things in history: art, literature, religious practice,” Adams said.

“I refer to myself as a ‘starlore historian,’ I tell the stories so they don’t get lost.”

The dark sky cruises are limited to 200 passengers and sell out, so booking early is a must.

In September, as the season winds down, Headlands will host a Harvest Moon Dance complete with live music scheduled to coincide with the fall equinox. Visit the park’s website, midarkskypark.org, for updated information on specific dates and purchasing tickets.

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