When the sun’s last rays dim to a glow on the horizon, Michigan’s amateur astronomers roll out a red carpet for the stars — and for those fascinated by them.
Photography by Ken Scott

At parks and planetariums, on beaches and at observatories, public “Star Parties” hosted by Michigan’s astronomy clubs offer views of objects in the night sky that fill aspiring and experienced astronomers with awe.

Some of the finest stargazing takes place over Michigan’s lovely waters, where the expanse of night sky is uninterrupted by hills, trees or city lights.

Southeastern Stars

Above Lake Huron in Michigan’s thumb, the Sunset Astronomical Society hosts an annual Messier Marathon, counting as many of the French astronomer’s 102 night-sky objects as possible, according to SAS Treasurer Tom Smith. More frequent gatherings take place at Bay City’s Delta College Planetarium or Beckstrom’s Observatory, near Deford State Game Area (

In Dryden, the Seven Ponds Astronomy Club of Lapeer County most often enjoys informal deep-sky, lunar and planetary observing at Seven Ponds Nature Center, but occasionally meets off-site at members’ homes and for events including the Kensington Star Party in Brighton. The group has plans for its own “Astronomy at the Beach” event this September (

Western Skies

Muskegon Astronomical Society offers an annual potluck cookout followed by stargazing on June 22 at the MAS observatory (

Grand Traverse Astronomical Society hosts a cluster of seasonal Star Parties in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, Platte River Point, Port Oneida Fair and the Dune Climb), and at Traverse City’s J.H. Rogers Observatory. Members will also be setting up telescopes on the city’s waterfront for the first annual Midwest Space Fest, Oct. 4-5 (

Along Sleeping Bear Bay, the Leelanau School’s Lanphier Observatory is operated by astronomy instructor Norm Wheeler. Public stargazing begins at 10 p.m., Wednesdays and Thursdays, from the third week of June through August (231-334-5890).

Across the Leelanau Peninsula in Suttons Bay, the Inland Seas Education Association is offering two-hour “Astronomy Under Sail” schooner trips led by astronomer Dick Cookman July 5, Aug. 2 and Aug. 30 (

Join the Northern Michigan Astronomy Club for a Star Party campout July 8-10 at East Jordan’s Raven Hill Discovery Center. Members also offer presentations on the beach at the International Dark Sky Park at The Headlands, west of Mackinaw City (

Meeting in the Middle

A favorite of astronomers who love to observe, learn and mingle, the 2013 Eleventh Annual Great Lakes Star Gaze Star Party will be held Sep. 5-8 at the River Valley RV Park in Gladwin (

Richard Kuschell, president of Traverse City’s club, offers a final word: “As they say at the Gladwin Great Lakes Star Gaze, ‘Look up, it’s free.’”

To find constellations, planets, clusters and other highlights of the cosmos, visit

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