NEW: Take our survey about programming at the Headlands

The staff at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park is interested in hearing from you, the public, about what types of programs and events you'd like to see at this special park! Below is a PDF of a downloadable, fillable survey; please take a couple minutes and provide us with your feedback. Thank you!

Dark Sky Park program survey




2013 programs have concluded; below are the programs that were held over the past year for those interested in reading about the types of programs offered at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park.



Past 2013 Programs






Location: Guest House

Time: 6-8 p.m. (sunset is 4:57 p.m.; moonrise 8:27 p.m.)

The eve of Winter Solstice 2013, Dec. 20, edges us into the darkest time of year, known in some traditions as the entrance into the womb of the Great Mother, Earth. In honor of this season, this evening's program will consider women in the world of stars: mythological, celestial and historical. Among the evenings considerations will be the bright planet Venus, which makes its first retrograde motion since the June 2012 transit and is visible in the evening sky at this time; the Ursid Meteor Showers, which peak on this night; and Solstice, known in Northern Europe as a Goddess escorted to Earth by the Great Bears, Ursas Major and Minor, also known as Callisto, the she-bear and her son, Arcas.

"We will also look into the history of women in astronomy during this gathering, which is scheduled to take place during the sacred time between sunset and starshine. The waning gibbous Moon greets us at 8:27 p.m., after our event," said Dark Sky Park Program Director Mary Stewart Adams.

The event is free and open to the public and takes place rain, snow or shine! No reservations are necessary.

NEW event Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013

Event details:
Getting Kids Outdoors, featuring Mary Stewart Adams of the International Dark Sky Park at the Headlands

Date: Saturday, Dec. 14

Time: 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

The turning points in the cycle of the year ~ known to us as the Solstices in June and December, and the Equinoxes in March and September ~ have always been heralded by specific practices of "making ready." Such practices belonged not only to the religions of the world, but to indigenous people observing cultural rites that were an attempt to harmonize with the apparent movement of the Sun, the Moon and the planets throughout the year.

One such cultural celebration has to do with the festival of light and Sun that takes place during the darkest time of the year. The darkest time is regarded as the Winter Solstice, the astronomical moment when it appears that the Sun has traveled as far south of the celestial equator as it can. Because of the tilt of the Earth on its axis, this moment in the Northern Hemisphere is the darkest moment, also known as the shortest day of the year, and as the first day of Winter.

To join in the the cultural celebrations of this season, and to "make ready," the Headlands International Dark Sky Park is partnering with Getting Kids Outdoors to host a Festival of Light that will include the creation of an outdoor spiral garden around which each participant will be invited to place their light. This is a quiet and engaging ceremony perfect for families, especially with small children, to have a respite from the usual rush of the holiday season.

We will gather at the Headlands Guest House from 4:30 to 6:30 pm Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013, where candles and song sheets will be distributed. Then we will settle in for a story and a beautiful celebration of shining our light into the ever-darkening season.

The event is free, and because space is limited, reservations are required at 231-347-0991

Jerry Dobek


Night hike into the night life on Saturday, Nov. 2, with special guest Jerry Dobek, Professor of Astronomy at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City

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

Location: Guest House at the International Dark Sky Park at the Headlands

Take a night hike into the night life, and then enjoy a tour through the life of an astronomer with special guest Jerry Dobek at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park this Saturday evening from 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Professor Dobek has been a 'star' in the dark sky movement in the Great Lakes region, and has impressed his knowledge on students, lay people, and movie-goers alike through his initiative at the State Theater in downtown Traverse City. As the stars come out on screen, movie-goers also get the treat of seeing a beautiful replica of the night-sky overhead, on the ceiling. Each 'star hole' was hand drilled to simulate the size and brilliance of the star it represents, as it appears on Aug.11 each year (around the peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower).

"The dedication to detail, accuracy and beauty is the hallmark of not only a well-rounded astronomer, but of a true devotee to the natural beauty of our nighttime environment," said Program Director Mary Stewart Adams. "We are thrilled that Jerry will come and share his experience and enthusiasm with us at the Headlands, especially since he is well-versed in the preservation of dark skies through his involvement with the International Dark Sky Association. He is the regional coordinator for the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Ambassador program, is a bona fide astronomer, and publisher of a rare set of plates and research into our celestial environment."

November also brings an end to Daylight Savings Time, which means it's easier to stay up late and celebrate the dark! "Nocturnal habitat is an important aspect of night sky preservation, so on this night we will take a walk along one of the Headlands trails to explore the nocturnal habitat, and we will follow up our hike with stargazing. We'll be between the Orionid and Leonid Meteor Showers, which also makes for great night-sky viewing," said Adams.

Like all events at the Headlands, this program is free and open to the public, with no reservations required. Event takes place rain, snow or shine!

Remember to set your clocks back one hour before bed on Saturday; Daylight Savings Time ends on Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013.

For more information, call (231) 348-1704 or email

Destiny awaits to spin your fortune at the end of the 1-mile walk!


5th Annual Headlands Challenge!
& Triple Fright Night in Northern Emmet County

(with free events also planned at
McGulpin Point Lighthouse and Mackinaw's Heritage Village)

Location: The mile-long paved path to the Beach House, for refreshments and fortune-telling!

Time: 8 to 10 p.m.

Please note: There is an error in the 2013 program brochure that lists this event incorrectly as Friday, Oct. 26. The correct date is Saturday, Oct. 26.


Do you DARE? The Headlands Challenge event draws hundreds each year, pre-Halloween, to walk the dimly-lighted path from the Headlands entrance about 1 mile to the Beach House, where "Destiny" is waiting to spin tales of fortune for each guest! Refreshments, storytelling and community-building. Refreshments, storytelling and community building. Experience the dark and stay for the show -- the stars above! Telescopes will be provided.

In addition to the events at the Headlands, participants are invited to visit the "haunted" McGulpin Point Lighthouse which is just a short distance from the Dark Sky Park, and Heritage Village, across the street from the Headlands, for trick-or-treating.

McGulpin Point hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily Oct. 26 through Nov. 3 (there is no charge).

Heritage Village hours on Triple Fright Night will be 6 to 8 p.m. on Oct. 26.

Trolley service among the three properties will be provided at no charge.



Paul Bogard


Acclaimed author PAUL BOGARD will join us for a program on

"Finding the Dark in an Overlit World"

This program coincides with the partial lunar eclipse occurring this day.

Time and details: 6 p.m., meet at the entrance to the Headlands to observe the partial lunar eclipse; the group will then drive to the Beach House (or walk if you're so inclined) for the program with Bogard, beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Program description: The Headlands International Dark Sky Park will host nationally-acclaimed author Paul Bogard on Friday, Oct. 18, at the Beach House, for an event designed to observe the partial lunar eclipse, and to celebrate the natural darkness Emmet County has protected over the 600-acre property.

The event begins at 6 p.m. at the entrance to the Headlands, where attendees will observe the partial lunar eclipse with Dark Sky Park Program Director Mary Stewart Adams.  The group will then drive to the Beach House (or walk if you’re so inclined) for the program with Bogard, which begins at 6:30 p.m.

Through his book "The End of Night ~ Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light,” Bogard takes readers on a dynamic tour of the state of darkness, while unveiling the consequences of light pollution and light trespass in contemporary culture. Bogard's book, published by Little Brown, will be available for sale and for signing at the event.

"All life on Earth evolved to bright days and dark nights, and we need both for optimal health," says Bogard. "As our nights grow brighter and brighter, we waste energy and money, endanger our physical, mental, and spiritual health, and disrupt the ecosystems on which we rely. And worst of all, we use way more light than we need for our safety and security."

Emmet County and its residents are no strangers to the dark. In addition to Emmet County's Headlands property receiving distinction as just the 6th International Dark Sky Park in the US at the time of designation in May 2011, the area is home to the Outdoor Lighting Forum. The OLF’s mission is to research and disseminate information on good outdoor lighting practices, to promote lighting that is efficient, offer safety to the public, improve community appearance and protect the night sky environment.  Area dark sky advocates were instrumental in establishing Michigan's Dark Sky Coast legislation (through 2012's PA 251), protecting nearly 23,000 acres of state land from the ill effects of light pollution and light trespass in 2012. Further, Michigan was the first state in the U.S. to formally protect its night sky as a resource and asset when it protected the skies over Lake Hudson State Park south of Jackson, MI in the mid-1990s.

"Protecting the night sky is an on-going activity that provides great opportunities for introducing area school children, residents, and visitors to the natural wonder and beauty of the environment, while also protecting resources and saving money," said Adams. "Protecting the night sky over any environment restores the natural beauty of that environment, and it allows us to encounter the defenses we build up in our stressed-out world. Finding ourselves in the dark is an all-too-rare experience, even in Northern Michigan.”

The program is free and open to the public.

"We are thrilled to be hosting Paul here and to be providing an opportunity for community members to hear, from an outside source, about the tremendously positive impact communities such as our own are having on this issue,” said Adams. “The reviews of Paul's book are great and glowing, and the event promises to be informative. In addition, there's a partial lunar eclipse that night, visible from our area, to really set the stage."

Questions? Call Adams at (231) 838-8181 or email



What's in a name?

Time: 7:30-9:30 p.m.

Location: Beach House

Indigenous cultures practiced naming the Full Moon each month to harmonize their activity with the rhythm of Earth's only natural satellite. What are these sacred names?

Program description: In former times, indigenous cultures determined the time of year by 'reading' the relationship between Moon and stars and sleep transitions. Knowing the time of year meant observing the time of New Moon, counting the sleeps, and finding the stars culminating (coming to their highest place overhead). Harvest time was determined not only by the Full Moon closest to Equinox, which is how we define Harvest Moon in contemporary culture; rather, it was 'read' as the gesture of the New Moon from the region of Virgo, the maiden, with the bright star Spica, star of abundance. Spica is sometimes regarded as a shaft of wheat or ear of corn, held in the arms of the maiden. Why Virgo? Because this is where the New Moon occurs in the season of September, and in many cultures she is regarded as the goddess of agriculture.

At this month's event, we will entertain you with stories of the night sky from indigenous traditions, and explain why it is the five sleeps following the New Moon that can be the time for vision questing.

You are invited to bring your own picnic for an entertaining and informative evening under the starry skies of late summer, to learn the names of the Moon, and to prepare for the coming sleep of the quiet season.




NEW IN 2013

The Dark Sky Park goes to the Fair in Petoskey!

Wednesday, Aug. 21, 8 to 9 p.m.

Location: Nick's Kids' Stage (near the Community Building)

Dark Sky Park Program Director Mary Stewart Adams will give a program at the 108th annual Emmet-Charlevoix County Fair (Fair Week is Aug. 19-25) on the evening of Wednesday, Aug. 21.

"Once in a Blue Moon" will take place from 8 to 9 p.m. at Nick's Kids' Stage; there is no cost for the program.

Program description: The land of the million dollar sunsets is also the land of magnificent moonrises, and Wednesday, August 21, from 8 to 9 p.m., fairgoers will have the rare delight of a narrated tour of sunset and moonrise with Emmet County’s Headlands International Dark Sky Park program director Mary Stewart Adams.

With sunset at 8:38 pm and moonrise at 8:39 pm, this program was scheduled and designed to celebrate the wonder of rhythm found in the natural world, and man’s system of naming natural phenomena.

The 2013 Farmer’s Almanac lists the August Full Moon as the “Full Sturgeon Moon”, which Mary will explain, together with stories of how the Moon gets its many names, and why this month’s Moon is also an ‘old school’ Blue Moon. This program will include astronomy, story, mythology, legend, poetry, a peak at current celestial highlights and more.


Picnic with the Perseids & the Lights Out Across the Straits Challenge!

With Special Guest Patrick Stonehouse, who discovered Comet Stonehouse from his rooftop observatory in Wolverine in 1998

Time: 8:30 to 10:30 p.m.

Location: At the Beach House, at the International Dark Sky Park at the Headlands, and viewing along the shore at the Dark Sky Viewing Area (adjacent to Beach House)



The peak of the annual Perseid Meteor Shower arrives Monday, Aug. 12, in the early hours and to take best advantage of it, the Headlands International Dark Sky Park hosts comet discoverer Patrick Stonehouse at a bring-your-own-picnic for one of the best nights under the sky all year. Stonehouse, who discovered Comet Stonehouse from his rooftop observatory in Wolverine, Mich. in 1998, will join Headlands Program Director Mary Stewart Adams for an evening devoted to the stories and the science of the Perseids, and the ensuing season of shooting stars it inaugurates.

"Because the Moon comes to New Phase just four nights before the peak of the meteor shower, we will not have to contend with an undue amount of natural night light," said Adams. "And we've timed our event to take in the best views of the night, starting with sunset over Lake Michigan at 8:53 pm, and followed, in order, by brilliant Venus to the West, the blue white star Spica, the waxing crescent Moon and Saturn to the South. All of this sets before the meteor shower starts to get active, so the whole evening promises to be beautiful."

The Perseids usually reach a peak rate of somewhere around 50-100 meteors an hour (the prediction this year is for 70 an hour) — though sometimes far more. The most meteors occur toward morning, when the constellation Perseus is highest overhead — between 2 and 3 a.m. If you follow the trail of the meteors back to their point of origin, they appear to radiate from in front of the constellation of Perseus, which rises in the northeast portion of the sky at about 9 p.m. in the Northern Hemisphere during August. But you’ll be able to see the shooting stars regardless of what part of the sky you are watching. Perseids are famous because they can produce some of the brightest and fastest meteors of the year, often leaving persistent trails. Peak activity occurs between Aug.10-13, though they are visible to some degree throughout all of August.

The shower is caused by Earth's passage through the trail of stuff left behind by Comet Temple-Tuttle when it whizzes through our system. Temple-Tuttle orbits once every 133 years, and was last closest to the Sun in December, 1992.

Join Emmet County's Dark Sky Park Program Director Mary Stewart Adams for the Perseids Picnic at the Headlands, just the 9th International Dark Sky Park in the world, 2 miles west of Mackinaw City. No reservations needed; event takes place rain or shine.

See the link below for information about the 'Lights Out Across the Straits' Challenge set to take place this evening as well, between the communities of Mackinaw City and St. Ignace, and including the Mackinac Bridge Authority.




FRIDAY, JUNE 21, 2013
(the first day of summer!)

Summer's First Sunset Storytelling and Stargazing: 'From near to far, what can we see in the night sky?'

PLUS a grand re-opening celebration of the Dark Sky Discovery Trail! 

Location: Beach House and Dark Sky Viewing Area

Dark Sky Discovery Trail narrated tour: Begins at 6:30 p.m.
Event Time: 8 to 10 p.m.

The Dark Sky Discovery Trail at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park was officially opened to the public for exploration in the late fall of 2012. Now that the summer season is upon Northern Michigan, Emmet County is planning a re-opening celebration of the trail to introduce it to the seasonal residents, visitors and locals throughout the region.

The celebration will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, June 21 – the first day of summer – at the Headlands park, 2 miles west of downtown Mackinaw City. The event is timed to coincide with a Dark Sky Park event set to begin at 8 p.m. that evening, “Summer’s First Sunset Storytelling and Stargazing: From near to far, what can we see in the night sky?” That event is scheduled from 8 to 10 p.m. at the Beach House and the Dark Sky Viewing Area, with host Mary Stewart Adams, the park’s Program Director, and guest amateur astronomers. The evening will include both naked eye and telescope viewing, with telescopes on hand.

Prior to the 8 p.m. program start, Adams will lead a narrated tour of the Dark Sky Discovery Trail from the entrance of the Headlands about 1 mile to the Dark Sky Viewing Area, where the trail concludes. Light refreshments will be served and transportation to vehicles parked at the entrance for the walk will be provided.

Both the Dark Sky Discovery Trail tour and the storytelling event are free and open to the public, and take place rain or shine. Reservations are not required for either.

About the Dark Sky Discovery Trail

The newest addition to the cultural interpretation of the dark sky at the Headlands is the Dark Sky Discovery Trail, a 1-mile long paved trail. 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.

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.

The opening sign sets the stage for what visitors will experience when they arrive: “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.”

Each Discovery Station represents one of the planets, plus Pluto, Moon and Sun. This is not a science trail, said Adams, but a path that leads visitors through cultural understanding and the interconnectedness of people from around the Earth both in ancient times and today.

The Discovery Trail was funded in part by a grant from the Michigan Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Dark Sky Park program in conjunction with Mackinaw Area Historical Society's Historic Festival, at Heritage Village, 2 miles west of downtown Mackinaw City on Central Avenue (adjacent to the Headlands International Dark Sky Park)

The details...

The Mackinaw Historical Society's Historic Festival is at Heritage Village Aug. 2-3. Included in this year's schedule is a program about the International Dark Sky Park at the Headlands, with Emmet County's Dark Sky Park Program Director Mary Stewart Adams. Her talk will begin at 6 p.m. in Heritage Village and will focus on the stargazer's environment before electricity.

Events on Saturday will include demonstrations, dancing, bands and a vintage Base Ball game. To view the full Historic Festival calendar of events, click here



First Saturday Stargzaing at Headlands: Using the Stars to Read the Book of Nature

Time: 9-11 pm

Location: Beach House

Before the technological explosion of the 20th century, which brought with it the pervasive use of electric light at night, people in the now-developed world lived closer to nature and retained a capacity to 'read' the language that was as though hidden in winds, waves, clouds, and stars, as well as in behavioral patterns and responses in wild animals. During this evening's program, we will learn basic constellation identification, and hear tales of how different indigenous people used the stories of the constellations as indicators for how to live in harmony with one another, and with the environments in which they found themselves. This will be a relaxed evening, and you are invited to come early and enjoy a picnic at sunset, and to tune into the sacred time between sunset and starshine with the stories and poetry of the coming night. The beginning of August marks the 'cross quarter time' in the season, which is the halfway point of summer that brings us closer to the onset of Autumn than we are to the onset of Summer. Soon the meteor shower season will begin in earnest, with August's Perseids, which can be seen as early as July 17, and which peak on Aug. 12.

Sunset is at 9:06 pm from Headlands, so come early and get yourself situated.


MONDAY, JULY 29, 2013

Meteor Shower Picnic Under the Stars


Time: 9-11 p.m. (sunset is 9:13 p.m.)

Telescopes will be provided

It's a little-known celestial fact that meteor shower season starts before the Perseids roll around in mid-August, and coming up on Monday, July 29, the Delta Aquarid Meteor Shower will kick off the excitement.

A free public program at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park from 9 to 11 p.m. on July 29 at the park is centered around the Aquarids, which are expected to be favorable this year, according to Mary Stewart Adams, Dark Sky Park Program Director.

"The Delta Aquarids take their name from the star nearest the radiant, or center-point, of the shower, which is the delta star, or third brightest star, in the constellation of Aquarius," Adams said. "This star bears the name 'Scheat' or 'Skat' and has several beautiful meanings. In the Arabic, this star means 'a wish,' so this is a great excuse for picnicking at the Headlands and casting your wish to the stars."

Reservations for the program are not required. Please bring a picnic and a chair or blanket; the program will take place on the lawn at the Beach House (follow the signs in the park). Telescopes will also be provided, although the meteor shower is best viewed with the naked eye. Event takes place rain or shine; some refreshments will be served.

"We've planned our picnic to catch the magnificence of sunset over the Straits (at 9:21 p.m.) followed by that rare time between sunset and first star rise during which we'll share the stories connected with the shower, its place in the history of astronomical discovery and we'll enjoy the camaraderie that is always present among people who gather for stellar phenomena," Adams said.

The Headlands International Dark Sky Park is one of eight in the United States and about a dozen in the world. It is located about 2 miles west of downtown Mackinaw City. For more upcoming programs and park details, visit Questions? Call (231) 838-8181 or email



Astronomy of the Great Lakes and Native Star Tales

Location: Dark Sky Viewing Area

Time: 9-10:30 p.m. (sunset is 9:22 p.m. with Moon visible most of the night)

Telescopes will be provided

The next Dark Sky Park program at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park will focus on "Astronomy of the Great Lakes and Native Star Tales." It will take place beginning at 9 p.m. on Saturday, July 20, at the designated Dark Sky Viewing area at the Mackinaw City park (follow the signs in the park).

Sunset on this evening is 9:22 p.m., with the moon visible most of the night as it approaches full moon. The event is free and open to the public; no reservations are required. Telescopes will be provided.

On this evening, join Dark Sky Park Program Director Mary Stewart Adams as Emmet County celebrates local, state and regional partnerships dedicated to protecting the night skies over Michigan as one of our greatest natural resources.

"Michigan was the first state in the US to legislatively protect an area for its dark skies when it protected Lake Hudson State Park in Clayton in the 1990s," said Adams. "The success of Emmet County's protection and international designation of the Headlands as a dark sky park in 2011 has brought even further awareness, which inspired the State to protect even more land," she explained, referring to HB 5414 signed into law in 2012 that protects an additional 23,000 acres, most of which is located in Emmet County."This is cause for celebration, for astronomy buffs, naturalists, local communities and the state."

The July 20 program will bring together information about the many initiatives and programs happening around the state, while also looking close to home at evidence which reveals some of the oldest astronomical practices known to man: the stone circle of Beaver Island.

Institutions and initiatives that will be on hand with representatives or information include: Midwest Space Fest, Traverse City; Besser Museum Planetarium, Alpena; the DNR Globe Building outdoor recreation project, Detroit; Cranbrook Institute of Science, Bloomfield Hills; Northern Michigan Astronomy Club, East Jordan; and more.

"The program will be full of information and opportunity, and we intend to recreate, in miniature, the Beaver Island stone circle, in order to get participants involved in celebrating the natural wonder of the night and the way the harmonious rhythms of the cosmos has informed healthy community life for centuries," said Adams.

Though the Moon will be waxing toward full phase on this night, the bright planet Venus will appear breathtakingly close to  the star Regulus at the heart of the constellation Leo. A portion of all Headlands programs includes guided tours of the night sky and the ancient, indigenous, and contemporary stories behind it all.

For more information, call (231) 838-8181 or email


First Saturday Stargazing Series: The Grand Sextile and Solar Maximum

Location: Beach House

Time: 9-11 p.m. (sunset 9:30 p.m.)

Telescopes will be provided

July’s First Saturday Stargazing Series at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park arrives with flair on Saturday, July 6, from 9 to 11 p.m. during an evening devoted to celestial phenomena that are sure to put a sparkle in the summer.

Headlands Program Director Mary Stewart Adams will explain the rare and historical planetary configuration known as a “grand sextile” that occurs this month involving seven planets. Additionally, aurora borealis photographer Shawn Stockman-Malone will speak to this year's solar maximum and tips on how to catch the northern lights.

“Both of these phenomena are the type of events you need to know about before you can see them, so this evening's program will be rich with information about how to do just that,” said Adams.

Every 11 years the Sun goes through a cycle that includes an increase in the activity of sunspots, and the year 2013 is a solar maximum year.

“So far it's been a pretty low maximum, but things are about to get exciting, and Shawn will tell us why,” Adams said. “It is worth noting that Shawn is fresh from the wild success of her recent time-lapse video of the Northern Lights over Northern Michigan, called ‘North Country Dreamland’ which includes footage from March 2013 of Comet PANSTARRS as it set over the horizon at the Headlands.”

During her portion of the evening, Shawn will demonstrates how she masters her art. The evening’s program will include an indoor presentation of Stockman-Malone’s photography, followed by outdoor, naked-eye and telescopic night sky viewing. Meet at the Beach House first.

The program is free and open to the public and no reservations are needed. Even though it’s summer, it’s advised that guests dress warmly as it’s typically cooler along the Lake Michigan shoreline than inland. And if you bring a flashlight, please be sure it has a red filter, as the white light of flashlights and smart phones disrupts the night vision.



First Saturday Stargazing Series: The Ten Chief Ecliptic Stars

Location: Headlands Dark Sky Viewing Area

Time: 9-10 p.m. (sunset is 9:21 p.m.)

Telescopes will be provided

As the Earth moves about the Sun each year, the view of background stars changes. Centuries ago this gave rise to the belief that the stars behind the Sun, which came to be known as the stars of the Zodiac, bore a special significance in the grand scheme of things. Among the many stars that make up the constellations of the zodiac, there are 10 that are so close to the apparent path of the Sun, that the Sun appears to block them as it wends along. Tonight we will identify which stars they are, where they are located, when to see them and what dates they have their solar encounter; an engaging way to get ready for summer evenings full of stars!


First Saturday Stargazing Series: Astrophotography at the Headlands

Location: Beach House and Dark Sky Viewing Area

Time: 8-9:30 p.m. (sunset is 8:49 p.m. this evening; meteor shower peaks after midnight)

Telescopes will be provided

Saturday, May 4, will kick off Emmet County's first in a dynamic seasonal series of stargazing opportunities, designed for all ages and all levels of interest. This evening's program on "Astrophotography at the Headlands" is timed to coincide with the Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower, sister to October's Orionid Meteor Shower, both which derive from Halley's Comet.

Location: Beach House and Dark Sky Viewing Area, Headlands International Dark Sky Park, 7725 E. Wilderness Park Dr., about 2 miles west of downtown Mackinaw City.

Time: 8-9:30 p.m. (sunset is 8:49 p.m. this evening; meteor shower peaks after midnight)

Guest presenters who will join Dark Sky Park Program Director Mary Stewart Adams include photographers Rod Cortright, who specializes in astrophotography, and Robert Morris, whose expertise is in nature photography. Both will speak and share photos, and then participants will break into groups for more specific assistance with photography questions and concerns.

Participants are encouraged to bring their photography equipment.Telescopes will be provided.

Adams will share stories about tonight's meteor shower, the Eta Aquarid, which emanates from the region of the sky where the constellation Aquarius is located. The star from which the meteor shower derives its name is "Eta Aquarii," which is sometimes referred to by the name "Hydria," which means "water pot."

Reservations are not required for this event, and there is no charge. For more information, call (231) 838-8181 or email

 For those of you who are amateur photographers, learn more about Emmet County's "Emmet County Skies" photo contest currently under way; click here for details!

SATURDAY, MAY 18, 2013

'History and Star Lore of Odawa Indians at McGulpin Point and the Headlands'

Time: 8 - 10 p.m.

Location: The Headlands and McGulpin Point Lighthouse, 2 miles west of downtown Mackinaw City

Note: This is a collaborative program between the county, the Little Traverse Conservancy, and the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians

Enjoy a sunset hike along Lake Michigan as participants walk the shoreline from McGulpin Point Lighthouse to The Headlands Dark Sky Park with Eric Hemenway, Director of Repatriation, Archives and Records for the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians.

Eric will give a historical tour of how the Odawa came to inhabit the Straits of Mackinac and Little Traverse Bay Area.

Once at The Headlands, Mary Stewart Adams, Star Lore Historian and Director of the Headlands International Dark Sky Park, will share stories of constellations and how they guided early inhabitants both navigationally and spiritually. Meet at the Dark Sky Viewing Area. 

This event is free and open to the public. Reservations are not required. For more details, call (231) 838-8181.


MONDAY, APRIL 22, 2013

Outdoor Lighting Forum Annual Awards Luncheon

Location: City Park Grill, Petoskey
Reservations required; call the Office of Dark Sky Development at (231) 348-1713

Time: 11 a.m.-1 p.m.


The Outdoor Lighting Forum hosts tribal elder Frank Ettawageshik as keynote speaker for its annual awards luncheon at City Park Grill, Petoskey. The luncheon celebrates night-sky friendly lighting choices by area businesses and residents with an awards ceremony and dynamic presentations about why protecting the night sky matters ecologically, economically and culturally. This year's luncheon coincides with Earth Day and the annual Lyrid Meteor Shower, providing a stellar backdrop for our dark-sky dedicated Northern Michigan community.


Looking west, this graphic indicates where the Comet PANSTARRS will be visible during the month of March.


Comet Chasing!
Get a glimpse of Comet PANSTARRS C/2011 L4

Time: 6 to 8 p.m.

Location: Guest House at the Headlands

Every year, many comets visit the inner solar system, with nearly 42 predicted in 2013. However, most of these comets are faint, expected to reach only 12th magnitude. When it comes to magnitude, the smaller the number, the better ~ objects are too dim to be visible with the naked eye if their magnitude is greater than 6. Couple that with the fact that comets and their brightness can be rather unpredictable, and that not all are on periodic orbits, and you can see that even with all our contemporary understanding of our celestial environment, there are still undiscovered mysteries at work.

This March, 2013, the comet PANSTARRS C/2011 L4 is predicted to become a "Great Comet."  It achieves its near-perihelion on March 10, 2013, so we are hosting a program on Saturday, March 9, with the hope of seeing it as it blazes up over the horizon an hour after sunset, looking west.

PANSTARRS will be rising up from the 'water' region of the night sky, where you find: the two fishes known as Pisces; the dolphin Delphinus; the whale, Cetus; Aquarius the water-carrier; the River Eridanus; the fish-talied goat Capricornus; and the Southern Fish, Pisces Australis.

PANSTARRS is named for the array of cameras and telescopes at the computing center on the island of Maui in Hawaii where continual surveying of the sky takes place. The acronym stands for: Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System. And while there is not much story in the machinary that discoveres such celestial phenomena, there is historic coincidence in that William Herschel observed a comet in this same region, between the star Fomalhaut in the Southern Fish and beta Ceti in the constellation Cetus, nearly 250 years ago, about which he wrote to his sister: Lina, last night I 'popt' upon a comet...between Fomalhaut and beta Ceti. Herschel is famous for many things, including his discovery of the planet Uranus, first planetary body in our system to be discovered with the use of a telescope. He mistook his first observations of Uranus to be of a comet rather than a planet, though not this comet.

Northern Michigan Astronomy Club founder and NASA JPL Ambassador Bryan Shumaker and amateur astronomer Robert Dudd will join Headlands International Dark Sky Park Program Director Mary Stewart Adams for a fabulous evening of stargazing, comet chasing, storytelling and musing in the dark Saturday, March 9, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Headlands Guest House (left at the fork...if you pass Galileo, you went too far).

No reservations are necessary, and this event is free and open to the public.


View a photo album of the owl banding by clicking here


Owl Banding and Stargazing with Ed Pike and the Straits Area Audobon Society

Location: Guest House at the Headlands

Please note that the first date for this event on April 5 has been closed to reservations as it is full. A second date, April 6, has been added. Registration is required; details below.

(Friday event is full and closed to reservations)

Times: 6:30 p.m. on Friday, April 5;   7:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 6


Each year Ed Pike, a licensed bird bander, conducts research on migrating saw-whet owls at the Headlands and he invites the Straits Area Audobon Society to observe the activities. These strictly nocturnal creatures depend on plumage for camouflage during the day and deep darkness for mating, migration and predation by night.

This year Mr. Pike has agreed to have a session open for the public to come and observe these activities at the Headlands.

Birding professionals cast mist nets for catching the owls, and while waiting, participants are led through the wonders of the night sky above Headlands. This is an exceptional program for experiencing what's happening in our nighttime habitats -- and why it matters.

Mary Stewart Adams, Dark Sky Park Program Director, will also be on hand to offer the stargazing component of the evening's activities.

NOTE: Because we are dealing with a sensitive nighttime habitat, space will be limited and reservations are required.

To make reservations, or if you have questions, contact the Office of Dark Sky Development, (231) 348-1713



The Northern Lights in Marquette, as photographed by Shawn Stockman-Malone (photo used with permission)


The Northern Lights Over Northern Michigan,
with photographer Shawn Stockman-Malone

Time: 7:30 to 9 p.m.

Location: Emmet County Fairgrounds, Community Building

Every 11 years the sun undergoes a period of activity called the "solar maximum," followed by a period of quiet called the "solar minimum." During the solar maximum, there are many sunspots, solar flares and coronal mass ejections, all of which can effect communications and weather here on Earth and cause an increase in auroras, also known as the Northern Lights.

Forecasters say solar maximum will be reached this year (2013), and that in addition to this being favorable for auroral displays in general, auroras tend to increase around the times of Equinox as well. Join us this month as we welcome back by popular demand expert aurora photographer Shawn Malone to Emmet County, home of the International Dark Sky Park at the Headlands. While we cannot predict the Northern Lights will be on display this evening, you won't want to miss Shawn's exceptional images and tips on how to photograph the aurora yourself!

Sunset occurs at 7:55 p.m. this evening, followed several hours later by the waxing crescent Moon.

Please note that there is no way to predict the Northern Lights. This program is not intended to infer that the Northern Lights will be visible on this evening. The program will focus on how to be prepared to view and photograph the Northern Lights when they are visible to us in Northern Michigan. Photographer Shawn Malone will offer tips and insight into how she is alerted to aurora activity that is a focus of her magnificent photography work in the Upper Peninsula.



The Venus glyph.


Ancient Symbols, Contemporary Understanding

Location: Guest House

Time: 6 to 8 p.m.

Have you ever wondered why the planet Mars is represented as a circle with an arrow pointing away from it, while the planet Venus is a circle resting atop a cross? Or why the constellation of the Scorpion looks like the letter 'M' with an arrow-tail pointing away, while the constellation Virgo looks like an 'M' with a tail swooping back onto itself? Maybe you don't know these symbols at all and would like to learn about them; the opportunity to do so will take place Feb. 9, 2013, at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park in Mackinaw City during the program, “Ancient Symbols, Contemporary Understanding.”

Mary Stewart Adams, Dark Sky Park Program Director, will discuss how the use of symbols throughout the world and across disciplines is more than just a time-saving shortcut devised for easy note-taking. Symbols communicate shared understanding, and their effective use requires a critical mass of people who understand what they mean.

“The introduction into the meaning of symbols is not a straight path, and in the earliest ages of human civilization, exposure to certain symbols was a highly guarded experience that could happen only under the most sacred of circumstances. Such was the origin of the symbols used in contemporary culture by astronomers and astrologers alike to depict the 12 constellations of the zodiac, the Sun, the Moon and the planets,” said Adams.

The International Astronomer's Union recognizes 88 constellations, as has been the case for many centuries, but only 12 of constellations are represented by universally accepted symbols. What about the other 76? And do these symbols, also known as "glyphs,” still have import and meaning?

During the upcoming program, Adams will describe the original meanings of the traditional Zodiacal and planetary symbols, their relation to the constellations or planets they mean to represent, and what it means that these same symbols are still used by contemporary astronomers.

“Also note,” said Adams, “that in no winter month is the star gazing as satisfying as February, when the skies are clear and dark, and the mighty Hunter Orion can be seen marching overhead. Our brightest star, Sirius, comes to its midnight culminaton in February, and the asterism known as the 'Winter Circle' sweeps brilliantly across the nighttime sky. The Winter Circle is made up of stars from six different constellations, only one of which is represented by a symbol as described above.”

While this program will be more philosophical in nature, there will also be ample opportunity for stargazing and telescopic views into the night sky over the Headlands International Dark Sky Park, 2 miles west of downtown Mackinaw City.

 Sunset is at 5:56 pm so arrive early to catch the waning sunlight. Because this program takes place on the eve of New Moon, this will be an excellent evening for star gazing. Telescopes and light refreshments will be provided. No reservations are necessary.





12th Night: Celestial Highlights of the Coming Year

Location: Guest House

Time: 5 to 7 p.m.

Each year, the sky above us presents itself in a stunning array from month to month and season to season. This year, find out how you can plan the fulfillment of all your New Year's resolutions in harmony with these starry gestures at the "12th Night" program. When are the eclipses? What meteor showers will be most visible this year? Will Comet ISON be the brightest comet ever witnessed by humanity? Dark Sky Park Program Director Mary Stewart Adams will share all of this and more.

Guests are encouraged to bring calendars for marking the signifcant dates for the celestial phenomena of 2013. The 2013 Headlands International Dark Sky 2013 program brochure will also be available on this evening. It can also be downloaded at the bottom of this page.

Sunset this 12th night of the Christian Festival of Christmas is 5:09 p.m. from the Headlands, so plan your arrival accordingly.

Program is at the Guest House (follow the signs in the park).

2013 Dark Sky Park brochure

Click on image to download the 2013 brochure!

2013 Dark Sky program brochure