2013 Dark Sky Park Programs

Click on the link below for the 2013 Program Schedule; more programs are added regularly, so check back often for schedule updates


* NOTE: Events take place rain or shine. In the event of inclement weather, programs take place inside the Beach House or Guest House, as noted. (Click here for need-to-know info about visiting the park.)



Events this year so far

Saturday, Dec. 15: The Mayans


In advance of the Winter Solstice of 2012, this event will include stargazing, the Geminid Meteor Shower and a program about how the Mayan calendar demonstrates the cultural impact of measuring the stars.

Time: 8 to 10 p.m. at the Guest House

The Northern Michigan skies are spectacular, and this season we have enjoyed views of the aurora borealis, shooting stars, spectacular starshine and more. It is these same kinds of phenomena that lit up in ancient worlds as well, guiding people in their practice of religion, mode of governance, agriculture and architecture. One such people were the Mayans of Central America. The Mayans were sophisticated astronomers who developed a three-fold calendar system for measuring great epochs of time, the gestational cycle of human pregnancy, and their civil/solar year.

In this presentation "The Mayans: What Did They Know," Program Director Mary Stewart Adams will explore the astronomical and calendrical expertise of the Mayan people, and what it means that one of their calendars is ending coincident with Winter Solstice 2012. Is the Sun coming to its standing still point aligned to the great galactic center? And if so, what does that mean and what did the Mayans foresee. Mary will also share insights into current planetary positions, with star gazing as well (weather permitting).

Nov. 13 at Petoskey Fairgrounds: Live streaming of Total Solar Eclipse


November's New Moon arrives on Tuesday, Nov.  13, in rare astronomical and cultural style, causing a Total Solar Eclipse for viewers on the other side of the world and marking the New Year in the Islamic calendar.

Here in Emmet County, home to one of only seven International Dark Sky Parks in the U.S., county staff are planning an event and live video stream of the eclipse as it carves a path across Northern Australia and the Southern Pacific Ocean.

The public is invited to watch from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Emmet County Fairgrounds Community Building in Petoskey. The event will feature live images streamed from the SLOOH camera, and live interactive narration by solar astronomers from Britain and Spain.

Why make a big deal out of it here in Northern Michigan where we won't be able to see it?

"There won't be a Total Solar Eclipse visible from the United States until August 2017, but with the use of today's technology, we can experience this one as it's occurring on the other side of the world," said Mary Stewart Adams, Program Director for the Headlands International Dark Sky Park. "I worked with the International Astronomers Union Office of Astronomy Development in South Africa to find the solar astronomy experts who will interact with us on the 13th, and we've been at work in the County IT Department setting up our connections and projection equipment. It's an ambitious undertaking that promises to be a fun event, and as always it's free and open to the public -- not to mention that it promises to be educational for all ages."

A Total Solar Eclipse can only occur when the Moon comes to New Phase at the point on its orbital path that places it directly between the Earth and the Sun. Eclipses happen rhythmically each year, but Total Eclipses are rare enough to still cause excitement within and beyond the international community of astronomers, Adams noted.

The Eclipse Event will take place in an “open house” style, meaning guests are welcome to drop in anytime, or arrive at the beginning and stay throughout, as suits their schedule.

"This event gives the local community an opportunity to interact with solar astronomy experts and to see the eclipse as it is occurring," said Adams, noting that refreshments and on-site information will also be provided. "This also gives us an opportunity to demonstrate to an international community just how dedicated we are to learning about and celebrating astronomical phenomena here in Northern Michigan."

Nov. 11: Dark Sky Discovery Trail opens to the public

The newest addition to the cultural interpretation of the dark sky at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park officially opens to the public on Sunday, Nov.  11, 2012.

The Dark Sky Discovery Trail is a 1-mile long paved trail from the Headlands entrance to the designated Dark Sky Viewing Area. It features cultural docents, indigenous artwork and regional photography that interpret humanity’s relationship to the night sky over the centuries and across a variety of cultures. The Headlands, an Emmet County park located 2 miles west of downtown Mackinaw City, is open 24 hours a day 7 days a week at no charge. The signs are not lighted so plan accordingly.

Each Discovery Station features a cultural docent or representational artwork; an interpretive display board with text about each planet; and a sign indicating how visitors can access audio components (either via dialing a phone number with your cell phone or using the QR code).

The opening sign sets the stage for what visitors will experience when they arrive at the Headlands to participate in the Discovery Trail: “The dark wilderness of endless sky has held wonder for humanity as long as there have been sky and man. Along this 1-mile Dark Sky Discovery Trail, visitors will encounter inspiring people and figures – ‘cultural docents’ – and art representations which will explore humanity’s relationship with the cosmos. They will demonstrate how this relationship has impacted the evolution of our culture, from ceremonial and agricultural practices of indigenous tribes to the navigational instruments used by the first Europeans to arrive here."

For more details about the trail, click here!

Saturday, Nov. 10: A Star in Michigan

This rocky shoreline has been witness to incredible changes and people through the centuries.


For centuries, the acreage now known as the Headlands has been geographically significant. The natural features have served the indigenous people who settled here, the birds that migrate here and the wildlife that thrive in this dark wilderness. Also learn about the upcoming Leonid Meteor Showers!

Time: 6 to 8 p.m.

The 600 acres now known as the Headlands park in Mackinaw City has been a unique feature in the history and geography of Michigan since the land mass of the area was transformed millennia ago by sweeping glacial movements.

The history and legends regarding the first people of this land and along these shores, the Anishnaabek  - including the Odawa and Ojibwe people - reveal their reliance on the abundant wildlife resources of both land and water that the area provided.

To this day, the Straits area is an important "waterway of commerce,” and the migration of life across the Northwest tip of Michigan's mitt is a fascinating journey through one of the state's most breathtaking natural landscapes. It is also a protected dark sky wilderness, the latest chapter in its rich, long history.

The next program at the International Dark Sky Park will focus on this intriguing history. “The Headlands: A Star in Michigan History” will take place at the Beach House from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10. During this program, featuring Dark Sky Park Program Director Mary Stewart Adams and additional speakers, the history of the property will be explored in both contemporary culture and as far back into the past as can be known through geological, archeological, indigenous and archeo-astronomical consideration.

The program will include presentations by area experts in indigenous history and legend, European settlement in the area, bird migration patterns, land conservation, shipping and dark sky advocacy.
"All of these elements are like the stars of a mighty constellation, which combine to make Northern Michigan an unparalleled resource in natural, historical environments," said Adams.  “It's something we can truly be proud of as a local community and throughout the state, and from which we can learn a great deal.

“All of us who call this area home can consider ourselves stewards of the environment for other people in the world who don't have access to the same natural beauty that we find here, and the Headlands is a prime example of what that can mean."

The program will include information about the ongoing activities that take place at the Headlands, as well as anecdotes about the history of development through the 20th century and more. In addition, Adams will speak to upcoming celestial events, including the Leonid meteor showers, which peak on Nov. 17. 

Saturday, Oct. 27: Headlands Challenge and Triple Fright Night!

8 to 10 p.m.

The dark wilderness at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park is the setting for an annual event that brings hundreds of night enthusiasts through the woods to meet Destiny for tales of fun and fortune.

The 4th Annual Headlands Challenge event takes place from 8 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27, at the Dark Sky Park located 2 miles west of downtown Mackinaw City. There is no charge for the event.

Each year, Emmet County dares visitors to walk the dimly-lighted approximately 1-mile drive from the Headlands entrance to the Beach House, where Destiny is waiting to spin tales of fortune for each visitor. The county-sponsored event will include light refreshments (hot chocolate, cookies, bottled water), free giveaways and storytelling by Destiny, aka Mary Stewart Adams, Dark Sky Park Program Director.

Headlands Challenge participants should plan to park at Heritage Village, which is located directly across Wilderness Park Drive from the Headlands entrance. Parkers will be on-site directing traffic. No vehicle traffic will be allowed along the road into the Headlands during the event. Handicapped participants may arrive no later than 7:30 p.m. to park at the Beach House; they will not be allowed to leave until the end of the event at 10 p.m.

The road to the Beach House has recently been paved; guests may bring wagons and strollers for children. It’s advised to dress warmly; it’s usually at least 10 degrees cooler along the Straits of Mackinac than inland.

Walkers will be guided by lighted luminaries to the main entrance of the Beach House. Telescopes will also be set up for night sky viewing opportunities.

“We started the Headlands Challenge in 2009, during the International Year of Astronomy. Around the world night sky enthusiasts and dark sky advocates were concocting ways to get more and more people outside to celebrate the beauty and the wonder of the night. It was the 400th anniversary of Galileo's first use of the telescope, so a lot of folks were trying to get people out looking through telescopes,” said Adams.

“At the Headlands, this event each year has helped us give people a safe experience in the dark, to help restore some of the thrill of being face-to-face with the wild mystery of the night. This kind of environment sets the human imagination free, and that's what we need, in healthy ways that aren't artificially-induced. This is why we call it a 'challenge', because we have to challenge ourselves to just be outside at night, and to encounter ourselves in a totally natural way.”

The Headlands Challenge is one of three family-friendly events taking place during “Triple Fright Night” in northern Emmet County:

At Heritage Village:
From 6 to 8 p.m., historic Heritage Village will be open for trick-or-treating. Ghosts and goblins will follow a lighted path and travel back in time as they visit several of the buildings at the site. Costumed docents will add to the fun, and cider and donuts will be served at the bonfire near the covered pavilion.
Heritage Village’s time period is 1880 through 1917, and the community is a project of the Mackinaw Area Historical Society. It reflects an era from which a precious few buildings are still standing.

At McGulpin Point Lighthouse:
Expect to find Witches and Warlocks at McGulpin Point Lighthouse during this family-friendly event from 6 to 11 p.m. Climb the tower for a commanding view of the Mackinac Bridge and take in the spooky décor inside this late-1800s era structure.
The lighthouse is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through October. Special Halloween hours will be 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Oct. 28-31, with trick-or-treating on Halloween.
There is no admission charge to enter the lighthouse or climb the tower.

For more information about the Triple Fright Night events, call (231) 348-1704.

Saturday, September 22: Autumnal Equinox Celebration



Community Equinox Picnic and Sunset Celebration set for Saturday, Sept. 22

Time: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Join Emmet County and Great Lakes Consulting in a traditional celebration of the harvest season, with a Community Equinox Picnic and Sunset Celebration on Saturday evening, Sept. 22, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park, two miles west of downtown Mackinaw City.

"The moment of Equinox, when the sun appears to cross the celestial equator, occurs at 10:49 a.m. on the 22nd, followed by the last summer sunset at 7:38 p.m. that evening," said Dark Sky Park Program Director Mary Stewart Adams. "Traditionally, it is held that at Equinox time the Sun enters the sign of Libra, the balance, and the Full Moon closest to that balance point is the Harvest Moon.

"In ages prior to our own, festivals were always timed in harmony with the movements of the planets and stars overhead, and the harvest season celebrations were requisite for strengthening the bonds of relationship as the Earth tipped us toward the darker season. The coming together of communities for shared festivals and meals was more than a good way to keep in touch when life gets too busy; it was a means of ensuring healthy engagement with one another and the natural world."

The program will include a demonstration of indigenous foods of the season, presented by Great Lakes Consulting, a new local enterprise focusing on protecting local culture and Native American traditions. Adams will offer a presentation about which constellations are overhead in this season, how they relate to traditional, seasonal practices on Earth, and how certain agricultural practices were meant to strengthen the human being's capacities for dealing with the season of waning sunlight.

As with all Dark Sky Park programs, this event is free and open to the public; bring a picnic if you wish. Meet at the Beach House for the picnic; the group will then convene outdoors for sky viewing.

Remember that the temperature is usually at least 10 degrees cooler on the Straits of Mackinac, so plan accordingly. Chairs and blankets are recommended.

If you have questions about the event, contact Adams at (231) 838-8181 or darksky@emmetcounty.org


Saturday, Sept. 8 at Petoskey's waterfront: Basic Constellations and Lights-Out Challenge!


Time: 8 to 10 p.m.

In Petoskey, million-dollar experiences are not reserved for sunset alone, and on Saturday, Sept. 8 you can find out why. Mary Stewart Adams, Program Director for Emmet County's International Dark Sky Park at the Headlands is working in cooperation with the City of Petoskey's Department of Parks and Recreation to host an evening of stargazing at Petoskey's Bayfront Park. To highlight the beauty of the dark sky, the lights will be turned off to allow participants to get a better view of what's overhead but oftentimes out of sight due to light trespass.

This free program takes place from 8 to 10 p.m. at the Ed White softball field near City Hall.

"This is your chance to learn basic constellation identification, as well as to enjoy the stellar highlights of the season, which include the Summer Triangle, the richest part of the Milky Way stars, the planets Saturn and Mars and more," said Adams.

Adams said the program will also introduce a community-wide dark sky challenge in the planning stages for next year. "In 2013 we will host a 'Lights Out Across the Bay' challenge between Harbor Springs and Petoskey, so this Saturday's event gives us an opportunity to raise awareness about what we're missing when the outdoor lights are spilling up into the night sky. It's also just a really good time to get outside under the stars for awhile," she said.

Participants are to gather at the softball ball field at the waterfront and are invited to bring a picnic and picnic blanket and beach chairs for comfortable viewing overhead. Binoculars and telescopes are welcome, though not required. (Please note that in the event of rain, the event will be rescheduled for October.)


Wednesday, July 25: The Northern Lights, A Northern Michigan Experience



The Aurora Borealis is a dramatic, ephemeral and unpredictable sky phenomenon. Given the demand for information about when to see the Northern Lights, Emmet County is offering this stellar program that will include a discussion of the latest research about when they occur, how to best photograph them, what are the best viewing spots, plus a look at the mystery behind them.

“The Northern Lights: A Northern Michigan Experience” will take place beginning at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 25, at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park. This free event is open to the public and takes place rain or shine. Meet at the Beach House for an indoor program, then outdoor sky viewing.

Joining Dark Sky Park Program Director Mary Stewart Adams will be Shawn Stockman-Malone, an Upper Peninsula photographer who owns and operates www.LakeSuperiorPhoto.com. Her breathtaking photography of the Northern Lights over the Upper Peninsula has been featured far and wide; Brian Williams on the NBC Nightly News has twice talked about her timelapse photography of the Aurora Borealis. Her photos have also been featured by National Geographic News, the Smithsonian, NASA, Fox News, NPR, CNN, the Weather Channel and many, many more regional, national and international media outlets.

Stockman-Malone will talk about how she tracks and photographs this elusive natural phenomenon. She will provide “some general basics on what causes the Northern Lights, techniques and equipment needed to photograph them, and some stories related to the photos and some time-lapse video clips.”

Please note: Because there is no way to predict the Aurora Borealis, this program is not intended to infer that the Northern Lights will be visible on this evening. Instead, the program is intended to offer insight and background, from both scientific and mythological perspectives, about what causes the celestial phenomenon.

“We are in a period of increased solar activity, which always increases the opportunity for the Northern Lights to occur,” Adams said. “So it’s an ideal time to talk about this phenomenon and to prepare to view and photograph them when they avail themselves in the night sky. We have to build a place in our own lives to experience these things and when we do that, the natural world responds in beautiful ways. That’s the whole point behind this event.”

Malone will present a slideshow of some of her most magnificent Northern Lights photography to accompany the program, which is suitable for all ages. No reservations are required.

“I’ve always had an interest in photography and took it up as a full-time photographer shortly after we moved to Marquette over 10 years ago,” said Stockman-Malone. “I first saw and started photographing the Northern Lights around 2002. Over the years, I have developed a following of loyal art collectors from all parts of the country.”

To view Stockman-Malone’s photos prior to the event, visit her Web site at www.lakesuperiorphoto.com

Two new programs added: Aug. 17 and Aug. 20

Tremendous public interest in the free monthly programs at the Headlands International Dark Sky has led Emmet County to add more events to the stellar lineup both at the Headlands park and the county’s Camp Pet-O-Se-Ga on Pickerel Lake in Alanson. More upcoming events now include:

Friday, Aug. 17: Campfire Under the Stars, beginning at 8:30 p.m. at Camp Pet-O-Se-Ga

For the purpose of storytelling, there are few better environments than a late summer evening at a lakeside campfire under the stars. At Camp Petosega Friday, Aug. 17, Emmet County will offer a free event that includes poetry, storytelling and music, with poet bard Terry Wooten, of Kewadin. Wooten will join Mary Stewart Adams, Dark Sky Park Program Director, who will weave tales of star lore as well.

"I first met Terry Wooten through 'Telebration' at Petoskey Public Library, and was mesmerized by his poetic genius," said Adams. "For quite a few years now I've been seeking to create an environment where the wisdom and whimsy of his poetic rhythms could be linked to the ever-present rhythms of sunset and starshine, waxing and waning moon. This event will combine the swirling magic of what's going on overhead with the dance of language here below."

The poetry, storytelling and music event with Wooten, who locally presented at Stone Circle in Charlevoix for many years, is free and open to the public and campers; guests are welcome to bring picnics and picnic blankets or outdoor chairs. The event takes place at the firepit near Cabin Five at Camp Petosega, where benches are also provided.

"Hosting Terry Wooten as the sun sets over the lake and while the richest portion of the Milky Way stars arc overhead gives us the opportunity to bring kids, family and friends outside where inspiring impressions can be made," said Adams.

Reservations are not required for this event.

Picnic Under The Stars at the Headlands on Monday, Aug. 20, from 8:15 to 10 p.m.

The stars of August are telling a mighty story: The richest part of the Milky Way is arcing overhead; the planets Mars and Saturn are cozying up with the star of abundance, Spica, in the west after sunset; and all of them together are awaiting the embrace of the crescent moon.

This is the perfect stage for an evening of storytelling under the stars with Mary Stewart Adams, Program Director for Emmet County's Headlands International Dark Sky Park. Families, visitors and residents of all ages are invited to pack up their picnic baskets and bring comfortable blankets or chairs for an evening of story-telling about the night sky as it unfolds above a bonfire on the Straits of Mackinac. This “Picnic Under the Stars” takes place from 8:15 to 10 p.m. Monday, Aug. 20. Sunset is at 8:40 p.m., followed by Moonset at 9:45 p.m., so arrive in time to find a spot before the setting sun.

“The Moon that cups the evening star bears the name Creculea,” said Adams. “This is the type of evening where the romance of the starry night is unparalleled.”

The event is free and open to the public. No reservations are required. The program will take place on the grounds of the Beach House rain or shine.

“Our role in the story being told by current events in our world is to include and restore wonder and direct encounter with the natural world, and storytelling events under the stars are just such opportunities,” said Adams. 

Sunday, August 12: Blue Moon, Perseid Meteor Showers


August is full of exciting astronomy, including the most prevalent meteor shower of the season, the Perseids, and this year's only Blue Moon. Perseids are expected to be favorable this year, given their proximity to New Moon.

By far the most popular of the meteor showers that fill the sky are the Perseid Meteor Showers, which are visible from July 17 through Aug. 24 each year, and which peak the evening of Sunday, August 12, 2012.

At the Headlands we will host a program for viewing the Meteor Shower that will include a presentation about the cultural beliefs regarding meteors, from stories of Michael and the Dragon to the Weaving Princess and the Cowherd.

The Perseids have been observed for over 2,000 years and mark the onset of the Meteor season each year, creating a golden opportunity for experiencing how starlight is woven into the season of darkness that approaches with Autumn Equinox in late September. The Perseid radiant, in front of the constellation Perseus, reaches a suitable elevation around midnight, followed this year by the rising of the waning crescent Moon, which will make for a dramatic overnight setting. Perseids are fast and bright meteors that frequently leave a persistent trail and are the result of Earth's movement through the trail of stuff sloughed off of Comet Swift-Tuttle as it swept through our planetary system, first discovered in 1862. 

Time: Beginning at 9 p.m. Reservations are not required.

Thursday, July 19: Picnic Under The Stars


Once upon a time, every star had a name, and in every name was a story ... So begins a magical night of storytelling under the stars with Mary Stewart Adams, Program Director for Emmet County's Headlands International Dark Sky Park, two miles west of Mackinaw City on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Families, visitors and residents of all ages are invited to pack up their picnic baskets and bring comfortable blankets or chairs for an evening of story-telling about the night sky as it unfolds above a bonfire on the Straits of Mackinac.

This “Picnic Under The Stars” takes place from 9:15 to 10:45 p.m. Thursday, July 19. Sunset is at 9:22 p.m., so arrive in time to find a spot before the setting sun. Because this is New Moon, starlight will shine uninhibited by the moon’s glow.

For several years prior to directing programs for Emmet County’s International Dark Sky Park at the Headlands, Adams published the wall calendar “Fairy Tale Moons,” with the intent to safeguard the stories of the night sky that were being swallowed up by light pollution and advancing technology.

“There's a thrilling and restorative effect on us when we're exposed to the beauty and majesty of the night sky, and there's no telescope required for such encounters,” Adams said. “At the Headlands we've been able to protect a naturally dark wilderness, which is an ideal setting for the cultural tales of ages, most of which are rooted in humanity's beliefs about its place in the universe.”

Adams said that human beings are capable of seeing about 10,000 objects in the night sky, but with the power of modern technology, it is now possible to identify upward of 900 million objects. “Our ability to discover new objects has far out-paced our ability to know and understand what we're seeing, and it's in this gap between discovery and knowing what we've found that good stories take root and lead us into new worlds,” Adams said.

The event is free and open to the public. No reservations are required. The program will take place on the grounds of the Beach House rain or shine. Adams will have posters from her Fairy Tale Moons calendars available for sale, as well as memorabilia from the Headlands International Dark Sky Park. 

Tuesday, June 5: Transit of Venus

This rare and historic event is visible in the 5 p.m. hour from Emmet County. The transit-time started in June 2004 and concludes on June 5, 2012 -- and will not take place again until 2117. Exceptional viewing and programming will connect events in world history and astronomical discovery to this movement.
4 to 10 p.m.

Emmet County staff and the Headlands International Dark Sky Park are gearing up for the biggest celestial event of our lifetime -- the Transit of Venus! It takes place on Tuesday, June 5. An afternoon and evening full of free programs, events and opportunities to safely view the Transit will take place beginning at 4 p.m.

Click here to be taken to the page dedicated to information about the Transit of Venus event!

Click here for a photo gallery from the Venus Transit event.


Sunday, May 20: Eclipses and why they matter

Every year with rhythmic consistency, the Earth and the Moon encounter one another at a specific plane of orbit that causes them to block one another relative to the Sun. If the Moon is at New phase between Earth and Sun, this causes a solar eclipse. If the Moon is Full, on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun, it results in a lunar eclipse.

Eclipses are not random events in the cycle of the year, but throughout history they have sparked everything from passing interest to unbridled terror.

This year, the eclipse season begins with an annular eclipse of the Sun on Sunday, May 20, at 7:47 p.m. Although the eclipse will not be visible for us in NW Lower Michigan, it is the first central solar eclipse visible from the contiguous United States (Pacific Northwest) since 1994.

At the Headlands we will host the event "Understanding Eclipses," to demonstrate what causes eclipses to happen, to share historical accounts of what people have done overtime to engage with and understand eclipses, and we will consider beliefs related to eclipses stemming from astrology and astronomy.

Culturally the May New Moon has ties to Mother Goose nursery rhymes and the enlightenment of the Buddha, among other things. As always, we meet rain or shine, cloudy or clear.

During an annular eclipse, the outside edge of the Moon's shadow reaches the Earth, and anyone within its path can see the ring of the Sun around the Moon. Get ready for some great photos showing up on the Internet in the days following this event!

Sunday, May 20: Sunset is at 9:09 p.m., so we will start with an indoor program then head out to catch the last rays of the setting Sun.

Friday, April 20: International Dark-Sky Week

Friday, APRIL 20
INTERNATIONAL DARK-SKY WEEK: Join us in celebrating this international event, which occurs each year during the week of April's New Moon (April 16-21, 2012). At The Headlands International Dark Sky Park we will celebrate all of this and more with our event: Around the World With the Stars.

Students, families, teachers and all are invited to join us Friday, April 20 from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. for an indoor program of making star domes and other crafts, while hearing star stories from various cultures, followed by outdoor viewing of sunset at 8:30 p.m. until starshine (children under the age of 9 must be accompanied by an adult who can assist with crafting).

We meet rain or shine, cloudy or clear, for especially in this month of global astronomy it is good to know that if we can't see the stars, we must be the stars.

Our April 20 event is at the Beach House. Participants are welcome to bring binoculars, glue, scissors, telescopes and enthusiasm!

Also note that the peak of the Lyrid Meteor Shower is predicted for the following night, so we may catch some early strays at our Friday gathering.

March 24: Venus and Mars, Our Nearest Celestial Neighbors

Saturday, MARCH 24
VENUS AND MARS: OUR CLOSEST CELESTIAL NEIGHBORS: Venus and Mars have held many wonders for storytellers, singers and astronomers. We will look at what's going on with these planets according to contemporary mythology. Meet at the GUEST HOUSE.
6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Program description:
The idea that men are from Mars and women are from Venus is not just a catchy book title or convenient cliche for explaining the disparity among the sexes; rather, it is an idea rooted in an ancient understanding of the role of the planets in human biology.

“In human life, our understanding is always growing and changing, and so it has been with regard to our view of the cosmos. Up until the 16th century, the planet we now regard as Venus -- which is quite brilliant these nights in the West after sunset -- bore the name Mercury,” said Mary Stewart Adams, Program Director at the International Dark Sky Park at the Headlands in Mackinaw City. “The 16th century brought a tremendous shift in humanity's view of the cosmos, one that made way for modern science and a more physical approach to understanding our planetary system.”

Stewart is preparing for the next free event at the park, “Venus and Mars: Our Nearest Celestial Neighbors,” which takes place Saturday, March 24.  During the event, participants will follow the paths of Venus and Mars through history and through the night sky.

The program will look at the nature of their orbits, the ancient wisdom regarding their role in human life, and the modern-day missions such as Japan's 2010 Venus mission dubbed Akatsuki, or Planet-C, on which over 200,000 people sent their names and messages to the planet of love and beauty.
Another example is NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity, which was successfully launched in November 2011 and after a 245-day cruise it is due to land on the red planet August 5, 2012. This will occur while Mars is among the stars of the constellation Virgo, creating a colorful triangle with golden Saturn and the blue star Spica.

Both Venus and Mars are spectacular in the evening sky this time of year, and clear skies will offer unparalleled viewing opportunities of both planets whether with naked eye, binoculars or telescopes (you are encouraged to bring your own, or enjoy the views unencumbered).

Jupiter and the Moon will also be on the scene in the west with Venus, while Saturn will join the show later in the evening. Sunset is 7:58 p.m. on the 24th, followed by crescent moonset at 10:30 p.m. Venus will set just past midnight at this time, while Mars, which rises in daylight in the East at 5 p.m., will not set until 7 a.m. Sunday morning, so it will be visible all night. Saturn joins the scene just before Jupiter departs -- the ringed planet rises at 9:49 p.m. while Jupiter sets at 11:13 p.m.
The program will take place at the Guest House and outdoors from 6:30-8:30 p.m., though guests are welcome to stay at the park as long as they’d like.

The Headlands is a 600-acre park on the Straits of Mackinac, two miles west of downtown Mackinaw City, at 7725 E. Wilderness Park Dr. The park is free and open to the public every day. While no camping is allowed, visitors are welcome to stay overnight to observe the dark sky overhead. The Headlands became the 6th International Dark Sky Park in the U.S. and the 9th in the world in May 2011, and each month free programs are held for the public. Visit www.emmetcounty.org for 2012 programs and more information, email bpiehl@emmetcounty.org, or call (231) 348-1704. The county sends regular email blasts as well with information about night-sky observation opportunities and celestial events; to register, use the contact information above.


Feb. 18: Love letters in the stars

Venus and Mars, by Botticelli.

With the season of Valentine’s Day here, the next free program at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park will take a look at “Love letters in the stars.” Join Dark Sky Park Program Director Mary Stewart Adams Saturday, Feb. 18, as she takes a look at romantic and other types of partnerships in the cosmos, including the myths, history and science behind them. 

“It’s easy to be romantic under a starry sky, and with this program we'll not only consider Venus and Mars and their ancient love lore, we'll also identify companion stars and how our contemporary science describes relationships between galaxies and more,” said Adams. 

The program takes place from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Guest House and outdoors (not at the Beach House, which is closed until April). It is free and open to the public and takes place despite inclement weather. Because the moon will be in waning phase close to New Moon, Adams said guests can expect a dark and brilliant night sky. 

Adams noted that a variety of relationship-themed topics will be discussed, from which signs of the Zodiac are considered compatible to learning what scientists are discovering in our celestial neighborhood. 

“There’s an ancient and on-going fascination with what’s out there, and it motivates the highest research and discovery that happens on this planet,” Adams said. “Our understanding of our position in the whole affects everything from how we organize systems such as governments, our ceremonies, marriage and many other aspects of life. When you consider that the starry world has been the one constant throughout the entire history of humanity, it becomes evident that a study of human belief about our relationship to that whole is very telling.” 

The Headlands is a 600-acre park on the Straits of Mackinac, two miles west of downtown Mackinaw City, at 7725 E. Wilderness Park Dr. The park is free and open to the public every day. While no camping is allowed, visitors are welcome to stay overnight to observe the dark sky overhead. The Headlands became the 6th International Dark Sky Park in the U.S. and the 9th in the world in May 2010, and each month free programs are held for the public.

For more information, email bpiehl@emmetcounty.org, or call (231) 348-1704. The county sends regular email blasts as well with information about night-sky observation opportunities and celestial events; to register, use the contact information above.

Telescopes are not required for these monthly dark sky events, but they are allowed.

It's a date! Jan. 28 event focuses on out-of-this-world occurrences in 2012

THE HIGHLIGHTS AND MYSTERIES OF 2012: Bring your calendars and join us on a journey through the cosmos of 2012, including when to see meteor showers, eclipses and the final Venus Transit until 2117.
6 to 8 p.m.

The next free program at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park will offer guests a chance to plan their sky-viewing calendar for the next year, as Dark Sky Park Program Director Mary Stewart Adams will provide an overview of what to expect in the sky overhead through 2012. 

Adams said guests should bring their own calendars, or use one that will be provided at the event courtesy of the Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau. “It’s a lot of fun because you can plan special picnics, birthday parties and outdoor events that correspond with what’s happening in the night sky throughout the year ahead,” Adams said. “The best way to take advantage of night sky viewing is to know ahead of time what’s coming, like when the moon will be close to a certain planet or when the meteor showers will take place.” 

The program takes place from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28, at the Guest House and outdoors (not at the Beach House, which is closed until April). It is free and open to the public and takes place despite inclement weather. 

Adams will also guide participants through a lesson in how to best orient themselves to the night sky, to maximize viewing opportunities. This can help develop a sense of place in the universe, she said. “The history of calendars and their origination comes from measuring the stars,” Adams added. “We’ll put the calendar in its cosmic context.”