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2014 programs are now completed. Thank you for another great year at Michigan's Dark Sky Park! 


Past 2014 Programs


Saturday, Dec. 20

'The Meteor Shower of the Great Bear'

Location: Guest House
Time: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

As the Ursid Meteor Shower peaks overhead and the constellation Perseus comes to its highest place in its nighttime trek, cultures around the world celebrate the standing still of the Sun on Dec 20-21st, when the Northern Hemisphere transitions to Winter. Does every culture regard the Dippers as Bears? Where did the story of the Solstice Goddess originate? And is there a Christmas Star?

During an evening program on Saturday, Dec. 20, “The Meteor Shower of the Great Bear,” Emmet County’s Dark Sky Park staff will examine the role of cultural traditions in informing scientific research and discovery, and the role of healthy imagination and spontaneous ceremony in meeting the mystery of the season.

The program will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Headlands, two miles west of downtown Mackinaw City. “We will also create seasonal journals with celestial highlights, in honor of the tradition of observing the sacred connection between Earth and stars that occurs when there is the least amount of external light in the Northern Hemisphere. Traditionally this is the season for reviewing the year past and making ready for the year ahead, which will include three total eclipses, a blue moon, and much more,” said Dark Sky Park Program Director Mary Stewart Adams.

The program will begin indoors and then proceed outside for viewing as well. As always, the program will take place rain, snow or shine and reservations are not required. There is no charge.

If you have questions about the program, call Adams at (231) 838-8181 or email






Saturday, Nov. 15

'The Lion's Roar - Meteor Showers and Lantern Walk'

Location: Guest House
Time: 8 to 10 p.m.

The Leonid Meteor Shower, which sends shooting stars our way from November 5th until the 30th, peaks the night of November 17 to 18. We will meet Saturday, Nov. 15, the weekend before the peak, in order to get the most out of the phenomenon, and to participate in a centuries-old practice of walking through the night with lanterns and song.

The parent comet of the Leonids is Comet 55P Tempel/Tuttle, discovered in the 1860s, just as the American Civil War was coming to an end. Meteor showers happen when Earth passes through the trail of stuff left by comets as they speed through our system.

Tempel-Tuttle has an orbital period of 33 years, so it has sped by several times since the close of the Civil War, but because it stays on the same orbital path, it may be that we are racing through many layers of history when we encounter the broken up bits of Tempel-Tuttle, that burn up as they shoot through our atmosphere, said Mary Stewart Adams, Dark Sky Park program director at the Headlands.

Join us for an indoor presentation and outdoor evening of wishing on the stars, with our optional lantern walk and song! In addition, we will have telescopes on hand for views of the red planet Mars, now positioned in the thickest region of the Milky Way. Mars was also recently subject to a comet fly-by and has been much in the news of late. For more on the mania caused in social media by Mars, listen to Mary Stewart Adams' weekly radio segment here: and join us for an amazing night under starry skies at the Headlands!

Rain or shine, no reservations needed. Questions? Call (231) 348-1713 or email

Saturday, Nov. 22

'Thanksgiving New Moon Stargaze'

Location: Guest House
Time: 7 to 9 p.m.

As the asterism of the Summer Triangle begins its slow wane into the West, the mighty Hunter Orion crests the horizon in the East, climbing into the night with his companion dogs and the Taurean Bull, shifting our attention from the warm and lazy days of summer to the brisk and more inwardly wakeful nights of winter. Orion stands triumphant, master of seasons that change in his wake here below.

At Headlands we are taking advantage of Orion's charge by gathering at November's New Moon. This will be the last weekend of quiet before the onset of the holiday season, so gather with us and together we will count our lucky stars.

Tonight we will explore the many traditions of stories and science connected with the Orion Region of the sky, where the horse-head nebula, the pearly gates, the point of origin for our celestial system and more, all find their home.

Program will be held indoors and out, with seasonally specific light refreshments.





Saturday, Oct. 25

Sixth Annual 'Headlands Challenge' and TRIPLE FRIGHT NIGHT in Northern Emmet County!

Experience the 6th Annual Headlands Challenge & Triple Fright Night, with free events planned at the International Dark Sky Park at the Headlands, McGulpin Point Lighthouse and Mackinaw's Heritage Village!

Three Northern Emmet County parks will offer their annual Triple Fright Night festivities, free for families and visitors, just before Halloween on Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014! The events are scheduled around the 6th Annual Headlands Challenge event, when Emmet County dares visitors to walk the 1-mile dimly-lighted path from the Headlands entrance to the Dark Sky Viewing Area at the Lake Michigan shoreline.

The Headlands Challenge takes place from 8 to 10 p.m. Refreshments, storytelling and community-building are the event highlights. Experience the dark and stay for the show -- the stars above! Telescopes will be provided.

Please note: Transporation will NOT be provided back out of the park after participants have walked in. This will be a roughly 2-mile walking event into and out of the park to the parking area at Heritage Village. Most of the route is paved; some is gravel surface. Safety concerns prevent the park from allowing vehicle traffic between 7:30 and 11 p.m. and vehicles will not be allowed to enter or leave the park during that time.

More Fright-Night fun!

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 Lighthouse will be decorated for Halloween with the “Battle of the Bones!” Come out and listen to the spooky sounds of Bone Jet, Scream Rock Duo and Sharp Dressed Skeleton (Halloween decorations, not live bands). The lighthouse will be open 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Oct. 25.

The lighthouse is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily now through Nov. 2 (admission is by donation).

Heritage Village hours on Triple Fright Night will be 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 25. Costumed docents will greet trick-or-treaters who will walk from building to building in this historic park, which covers the period from 1880-1917. Refreshments will be served at Heritage Village.

Transportation provided

Trolley service among the three adjacent properties will be provided at no charge, beginning at 6 p.m. at Heritage Village, where most parking will be available. (The last run will be announced on signs at the properties on the night of the event; approx. 11 p.m.) The three park properties are located about 2 miles west of downtown Mackinaw City.

Again, please note that the trolley will not service the Dark Sky Viewing area at the Headlands. The Headlands Challenge event is intended to be a walking event.

For more details about Triple Fright Night, call (231) 348-1704 or email

If you have questions, call Emmet County Communications Director Beth Anne Eckerle at (231) 348-1704.

This evening of a fun is a combined effort of Emmet County and the Mackinaw Area Historical Society.



Wednesday, Oct. 8

'Field Trip to the Moon Part III'


Time: before and until sunrise, 5:30 to 7:45 a.m. (please note a.m. time! This event takes place in the morning!)

Location: Guest House

There are few things as dramatic as Full Moon setting into a Great Lake, but Full Moon totally eclipsed setting into the lake, now there's a rare opportunity! And at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park, it's just the right kind of celestial event to warrant gathering for the science and the story of it all, with refreshments, crafts, and a superb view-scape.

"Our October 8th event marks part III in our 'Field Trip to the Moon' series, which focuses on the rare series of four Total Lunar Eclipses in a row," said Headlands Program Director Mary Stewart Adams. "And given that the October 8th Moon is the first full Moon of Autumn, it is rich with story and mystery. In addition, the planet Uranus, not visible to the naked eye, but visible to us through telescopes, will be only 0.5* from the lower left limb of the darkened Moon at Greatest Eclipse, offering a rare and wonderful view!"

The Headlands program begins at 5:30 am, one hour before eclipse totality begins. "With eclipses, it's important to pay attention to the timing of things," said Adams. "On the morning of October 8th, things get underway with what appears to be a partial eclipse of the Moon, starting at 5:15 am. This marks the beginning of the Moon's passing directly into the shadow of the Earth. Total Eclipse Phase begins at 6:25 am and extends through greatest eclipse at 6:55 am, ending about half an hour later at 7:24 am. Then the Sun will begin to rise, at 7:46 am, followed by Full Moon setting, while still in partial eclipse phase, at 7:53 am. That might seem like a lot of time to keep track of, but each of the different phases allows for different views, and knowing when they occur matters if you are trying to capture the Moon photographically, artistically, or through a telescope, or even if you are trying to research whether its effects can be felt by the individual human being."

The October 8, 2014 eclipse is the second in the series of four Total Lunar Eclipses making up the tetrad of eclipses that is occurring from April 2014 through September 2015, and will be in phase as it is setting for Northern Michigan observers. We will gather at the Headlands Guest House area to watch the eclipsing Moon over Lake Michigan from 5:30 am until sunrise, at 7:46 am. We will have telescopes, binoculars, art supplies and light refreshment on hand for this event, which promises to be a great photographic opportunity, with the drama of Full Moon setting into Earth's shadow while lowering into the Lake.



Friday, Oct. 17

'The Hero's Meteor Shower'

Location: Guest House
Time: 8 to 10 p.m.

The Orionid Meteor Shower takes its name from the constellation Orion, which, to the Ancient Egyptians, was related to the mighty god of the dead, Osiris. For the Ancient Greeks, Orion was a great hunter who also chased after the Pleiades; and in the realm of the fairy tale, he becomes the mighty giant whom Jack encounters once he trades his cow for a handful of beans. Join us as we weave the cultural tales of humanity into the shooting stars overhead, as we approach the peak of the Orionid Meteor Shower Friday, October 17, from 8 to 10 pm.

In addition to the stories linked to the Orionid Meteor Shower, there will be a presentation on the parent comet of the Orionids, the famous Halley's Comet, which is the parent of at least two meteor showers we experience overhead through the course of the year.

"When Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) introduced humanity to the idea that the Earth orbits the Sun in the mid 1500s a great deal shifted in our understanding about what causes the celestial phenomena happening around the Earth," said Headlands Program Director Mary Stewart Adams. "And one of the most interesting shifts has to do with our understanding of what causes meteor showers to occur. Prior to the time of Copernicus, it was held that meteor showers were as mighty gifts, streaming earthward from the regions of the constellations where the great heroes of humanity have their home.  Once the Copernican thought took hold and humanity learned to believe that Earth is moving through the celestial environment, the heroes of the night sky disappeared, and now, contemporary astronomers describe meteor showers as resulting simply from Earth moving through the trail of stuff sloughed off by comets when they whiz through our planetary system."

Still, meteor showers are the stuff of wonder and awe and making wishes, and because telescopes do not enhance their viewing, meteor showers provide great opportunity for storytelling.

"The Orionid Meteor Shower is visible from as early as October 2nd and can be seen all the way to November 7th. They peak around October 21st, so we have timed our program to coincide with a weekend night as we approach the peak of the shower, to prepare ourselves with story and understanding, so that when the peak occurs, we know what to look for, and what time to look," Adams continued.

Program will occur indoors and out, rain, snow or shine, so dress for the weather, bring something suitable for sitting on outdoors, and join us with family and friends under the deep clear October skies at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park.




David Levy

Saturday, Sept. 20


Headlands International Dark Sky Park will welcome astronomer David Levy!

'A night watchman's journey: My life and hard times as a searcher of comets'


Location: NEW location: Dark Sky Viewing Area, follow the signs in the park

Time: 7 to 9 p.m.

Program note: David Levy's program will be held under the Festival Tent and will take place rain or shine!


The Headlands International Dark Sky Park and Emmet County are pleased to announce special guest David H. Levy for the Sept. 20, 2014, program, "A night watchman's journey: My life and hard times as a searcher of comets."

Levy is arguably one of the most enthusiastic and famous amateur astronomers of our time.  Although he has never taken a class in astronomy, he has made 23 comet discoveries, the most famous being the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet that collided with Jupiter in 1994. He has also discovered more than 500 asteroids, has received an Emmy for the documentary Three Minutes to Impact, and has five honorary doctorates in science. Levy has written more than three dozen books, is a regular contributor to several astronomy magazines, and has appeared on television programs featured on the Discovery and the Science Channels.  His PhD combines astronomy and English Literature.  Currently, he is the editor of the web magazine Sky’s Up!  while sustaining an international lecture schedule and continuing to hunt for comets and asteroids.

The Headlands program is offered in partnership with the Northern Michigan Astronomy Club and it occurs the night of September's waning Moon phase, which means skies will be clear for spectacular views of the thickest part of the Milky Way and the Summer Triangle.

“Additionally, September is the month when the largest numbers of asteroids have been discovered, so what better way to spend an evening than with an asteroid discovery expert?” said Mary Stewart Adams, Dark Sky Park Program Director.

Stargazing will follow Levy’s program. Reservations are not required, and the program is free of charge. It will take place rain or shine. Also, please note this program represents a change in the 2014 Dark Sky Park program schedule for Sept. 20, originally planned to be an informational session on the aurora borealis.

If you have questions, call Adams at (231) 838-8181 or email


The Moxie Strings!

Friday, September 5

(Please note: This date is a change from a brochure published much earlier in the year. Sept. 5 is the correct date for this program)

'Harvest Moon Dance with Live Music!'

Location: Dark Sky Viewing Area
Time: 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.

The rhythmic rising and setting of sun and moon and stars throughout the season draws forth an abundant harvest from the Earth, and a desire to dance in the rest of us! Emmet County and the Headlands park are pleased to host the dynamic sounds of the Moxie Strings for our first-ever Harvest Moon Dance under the big tent, a big Moon, and starry skies.

“Dancing to celebrate the harvest has been a tradition observed by many cultures for centuries, and this year, we're joining in with a dance to celebrate our bounty as well , which is the enthusiasm of our many visitors throughout the summer, the beautiful night sky, super moons, shooting stars, all of it!” said Mary Stewart Adams, Dark Sky Park Program Director. “The Moxie Strings are a high-energy duo with a great drummer and we are excited to host them under the moonlit skies of Michigan’s Dark Sky Park.”

(To get a taste of their sound, follow this link:

The night of the Harvest Moon Dance, Sept. 5, is close to this year's last "super moon,” so it will be big and bright. Not only is September's Full Moon a Super Moon, it's also this year's Harvest Moon. Harvest Moon is always the Full Moon closest to Autumn Equinox, in part because it lingers, brightly-lit, at the horizon, allowing for working and dancing into the night, explained Adams.

“Moonlight through the Headlands is one of the most beautiful experiences. Add a little music and some dancing fun and I think it will be one of our best programs celebrating the beauty of the Headlands,” she added.

As with all Headlands events, the Moxie Strings dance will take place rain or shine and there is no cost to attend. Reservations are not necessary. Refreshments will be available. The dance will take place under a large tent near the designated Dark Sky Viewing Area; follow the signs in the park.

If you have questions, call Adams at (231) 348-1713 or email


(Help us spread the word about the program by sharing and printing the PDF event poster below!)

Moxie Strings Sept 5 poster


Friday to Monday, Aug. 22-25

'Waning Moon Weekend and New Moon Stargazing!'

Location: Dark Sky Viewing Area
Time: 8:30 to 10:30 p.m.


Summer is not complete without an evening relaxing on a blanket beneath the stars in Northwest Michigan, and this year, the end of August brings a weekend of waning moonlight, which means views of the richest part of the Milky Way will be spectacular.

“The waning crescent phase of the Moon means that our lunar companion doesn’t come out until the wee hours, and then, only as a slim (albeit beautiful) crescent,” said Mary Stewart Adams, Headlands Program Director. “So for nighttime stargazers, this is a weekend that promises some of the darkest, most satisfying, and spectacular viewing.”

The only things guests to the Headlands will need throughout the weekend are blankets or camp chairs and red or amber-filtered flashlights. Astronomy guidance and telescopes will be provided, as well as the stories held in this weekend's star patterns, which include the close approach of the red warrior planet Mars with the golden-ringed planet Saturn, near the star Zubenelgenubi; the asterism of the Summer Triangle; and if we’re lucky, a late summer meteor or two, given that the most active meteor shower season is now upon us.

Plan to gather at dark sky viewing area 30 minutes before sunset (around 8 pm) for the story of what’s in our stars, followed by guidance to what we’re seeing overhead once it gets dark. Astronomical twilight, when the Sun arrives 18 degrees below the horizon, ends at 10:30 pm these nights, so it will be truly dark well before midnight.


Tuesday, Aug. 12

'The Perseid Meteor Shower Picnic'


Time: starting at sunset, 8:54 p.m.
Location: Dark Sky Viewing Area (follow the signs in the park)

Every year around the 12th of August, the constellation of the mighty hero Perseus gets activated by a shower of shooting stars, known as the Perseids. This is one of the most well-known meteor showers of the year, and the Headlands International Dark Sky Park staff welcomes the public to a free event on the night of Aug. 12, 2014, beginning at sunset, 8:54 p.m.

“Contemporary convention holds that this shower is due to the Earth's passage through the trail of stuff left in the wake of the Comet Swift-Tuttle as it sped sunward through our planetary system. Comet Swift-Tuttle wasn't discovered until the late 1800s, but the annual shower of 'falling stars and meteors' was recorded as early as 36 AD,” said Mary Stewart Adams, Dark Sky Park Program Director at the Headlands.

Guests are invited to enjoy an evening of celestial light, starting with sunset at 8:54 p.m., waning gibbous moonrise at 9:48 pm, and the promise of shooting stars throughout the night.

"Sunset, moonrise, and shooting stars are the perfect ingredients for a late night gathering of friends and families, to enjoy that waning light of summer and dream into the romance of the night," said Adams.

"And though the astronomy community claims that the Perseids will be diminished by nearly Full moonlight this year, we can think of no better way to spend an evening in Northern Michigan than beside the upper shores of the Great Lake, with moonlight on high and the chance of shooting stars overhead.

During the peak of the shower, the rate of meteors can reach 60 or more per hour. Perseids can be seen all across the sky, but because of the path of Swift-Tuttle's orbit, they are primarily visible in the northern hemisphere, which makes the Headlands ideally situated for their viewing. As with many meteor showers, the visible rate is greatest in the pre-dawn hours, since the side of the Earth nearest to turning into the sun scoops up more meteors as the Earth moves through space, Adams explained. The Headlands program begins at 8:45 p.m., but visitors are welcome to arrive early and stay late.

"In addition to the meteor shower, Saturn and Mars will make a nice showing in the evening sky, and then toward dawn, Venus and Jupiter will be brilliant in the East," said Adams.

Telescopes will be on hand for lunar and planetary viewing, though telescopes are not suited for viewing shooting stars. “For that, you simply need a blanket or reclining chair and a clear view of the sky overhead,” she added.

When visiting the Headlands, please remember to use a red or amber-filtered light, if needed, and please park so that your headlights face away from the viewing area. Also note that the Etta's Kitchen Food Truck will be onsite throughout the evening Aug. 12 with food for purchase.

Rain or shine, no reservations required. Call Adams for further details, (231) 348-1713.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Please note: Due to numerous questions about Tuesday's Lights Out Challenge: This is not a scheduled event at the Headlands; rather it is a challenge among Northern Michigan communities to turn off their lights on this night. As always, however, visitors are still welcomed to visit the Headlands and stargaze on this night!



It's our great big annual challenge ....

which community can achieve greater darkness?







Tuesday, July 29


Click on the links above to learn about the Lights Out Challenges in each set of communities



The Delta Aquarid Meteor Shower will rain overhead this night, and the communities of St. Ignace and Mackinaw City, as well as Harbor Springs and Petoskey, are taking the pledge to turn off the lights in a friendly competition to see who can achieve greater darkness. Watch the lights go down and the stars come out to play!

Anyone interested in viewing the sky and the Delta Aquarids is welcome to come out to Headlands, as on any other day or night, and enjoy the park and it's natural beauty!

The Milky Way above the Headlands!

Saturday, July 26

'New Moon Stargaze Picnic'

Location: Dark Sky Viewing Area
Time: 8:30 to 10:30 p.m.
Food: Etta's restaurant will be on-site with selling food (sandwiches, hot dogs and more) from its vending truck

The darkest time of month means the best stargazing in Northwest Michigan at the Headlands!


For summer stargazers in Northern Michigan, the end of July inaugurates one of the most gratifying experiences of the season: Views to the thickest part of the Milky Way Galaxy.

“In May, the Milky Way is as flat around the horizon as it can get, and seems to disappear from our view. Then, as though adorning the mighty wings of the constellation Cygnus, the swan, rising in the northeast each evening, the Milky Way’s river of stars arcs up overhead, opening views of our celestial environment with awe and wonder,” said Mary Stewart Adams, Dark Sky Park Program Director at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park in Mackinaw City.

To celebrate the beauty of this time of year from the celestial perspective, the Headlands is hosting a New Moon Stargazing event from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 26, at the park located 2 miles west of downtown Mackinaw. It is free and open to the public, and takes place rain or shine.

It promises an exceptional night of sky-gazing, according to Adams.

"When we look toward the region between the Scorpion and Sagittarius, we are looking toward the center of our galaxy, with all of its mystery," she explained. "The thickest part of the Milky Way becomes visible to us earlier and earlier as we make our way through the mid-to-late summer weeks, accompanied by the mighty heroes of the night, Perseus and Hercules, trailing shooting stars in their wake and setting the stage for magical encounters in the dark."

With the Moon reaching New Phase at 6:43 pm on July 26, conditions are ideal for a truly dark night at the Headlands, where the red planet Mars is taking its leave of the blue-white star Spica, following its path toward the golden, ringed planet Saturn. The stars Arcturus and Antares are brilliantly positioned around this scene of planets, and Perseus begins to mount up over the horizon, with the 'demon star' Algol clutched in his hand.

To take best advantage of this sky show, participants in the Headlands "New Moon Stargaze Picnic" are encouraged to arrive early, and to bring picnic blanket or camp chairs with your favorite foods and friends, to claim your spot on the grassy slope where you can lie back and take in the wonders overhead. Program is scheduled from 8:30-10:30 pm so guests can arrive during daylight hours, take in the sun as it sets over Lake Michigan, and hear the tales, the science, and the poetry of the night while waiting for the stars to shine.


Friday, July 18

'Headlands by Day,' with naturologist Maureen Stine


Time: 2-4 pm 
Location: Meet at the Headlands Park Entrance

The Headlands property is well-known as an International Dark Sky Park, but it is also a spectacular place by-day! The Headlands boasts miles of trails, an inland lake, and acres of untouched old-growth forest that make it as rich a resource by day as its skies are overhead at night.

For this uncommon daytime event, you are invited to join naturologist Maureen Stine for a fun, hands-on, multi-sensory program called, “Nature-Soup” which covers some water and land ecology studies and includes a nice easy nature walk. Guests can expect to talk about animal tracks, the Northern Lake Michigan watershed, fishing information and much more!

Best-suited for families with children ages 5-13. There is no cost for the program and reservations are not required.


Saturday, July 5

Nature's Fireworks!

Time: 9 to 11 p.m.
Location: Dark Sky Viewing Area

After the thrill of area fireworks, come on over to Headlands for the fun of finding the natural red, white and blue in the speculator night sky! This evening's program from 9 to 11 p.m. is scheduled to allow for settling in before sunset (at 9:32 pm), and for finding the fiery red planet Mars, making sparks with the white light of the first quarter Moon in the southwest, where they find themselves situated near the blue-white star Spica.


Friday, June 27

'New Moon Stargaze Picnic'

Location: Dark Sky Viewing Area
Time: 8:30 to 10:30 p.m.

The first New Moon of the Summer season arrives in the wee hours of Friday, June 27, which means this evening promises some of the best stargazing all month.

“Because our Moon won't be visible on this evening, we will focus our program on all of the other Moons in our planetary system, of which there are over 160! And due to modern technology, more are always being discovered, so tonight's program will include the history of Moon discovery, what qualifies an object as a Moon, who gets naming rights, how do we find them in the sky, and more,” said Mary Stewart Adams, Dark Sky Park Program Director.

Come prepared for an engaging evening under the stars that will include the story, science, discovery and wonder of all the celestial companions making themselves known in orbit around most of the planets in our system.

And that's not all: As a bonus, June 27th is near the peak of the Bootid Meteor Shower, providing the perfect combination for a magical evening under the stars. Pack your picnic, bring a blanket or camp chairs, and invite your dearest friends and family to the Headlands International Dark Sky Park for a night full of natural wonder along the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan.

Program is timed to include sunset, and guests are encouraged to arrive early, bring a picnic, and stay late. Telescopes will be on hand. No reservations are needed. Event takes place rain or shine! (Tent is available for inclement weather.)

If you have questions, call Adams at (231) 838-8181 or email

The Headlands is a 600-acre park on the Straits of Mackinac, two miles west of downtown Mackinaw City, at 15675 Headlands Road (please note this is a new address as of January 2014). 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 for 2012 programs and more information, email, 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.

(Sunset is 9:33 pm this evening)


Milky Way above the Headlands

Saturday, June 21

'A Day in the Life of a Dark Sky Park'

June 21 event at Headlands International Dark Sky Park will celebrate this longest day of the year

Date: Saturday, June 21: “Day in the Life of a Dark Sky Park”
Location: Dark Sky Viewing Area
Time: 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. (sunset is 9:32 p.m. this evening)

“Because we're not your typical park, we get a lot of questions about what visitors can expect when they arrive at our dark wilderness along the rugged shores of upper Lake Michigan. So we're taking the time on this longest day of the year to lead our guests through what it means to achieve International Dark Sky designation, why it matters, and how to get involved in the magnificent movement of restoring starshine all over the world,” said Mary Stewart Adams, Program Director at the Headlands, in setting the stage for the next free public program at the Mackinaw City park.

The event is free and open to the public, and no reservations are required. It will take place from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 21, at the designated Dark Sky Viewing Area; follow the signs through the park.

Bring a blanket, family and friends, pack a picnic, and make ready for a journey from the ground we refer to as the Headlands International Dark Sky park, into the majesty of the sky, where the Sun will have just made its Solstice moment of standing still (at 6:51 pm EST June 21), and then will set, “leaving in its wake the brilliant shine of Jupiter with the twins Castor and Pollux, followed on by Mars, Saturn, the rising Milky Way, the Summer Triangle and so much more,” Adams described.

Program will include highlights of the summer season, bonfire, storytelling, telescopes, and more.

“And all of this beside a roaring bonfire at the edge of one of the world's largest fresh water lakes, where the landscape is crowded with as much mystery and story as the sky is crowded with stars overhead. As with all of our programs, participants will be led through what's currently visible in the night sky on the wings of both story and science,” Adams said.

If you have questions, call Adams at (231) 838-8181 or email


Saturday, May 10

'Great Lakes, Dark Skies!'

Time: 8:30 p.m.
Location: Dark Sky Viewing Area

Next Headlands Dark Sky Park program May 10 celebrates Michigan initiatives to protect the night

In May 2014, Emmet County's Headlands property celebrates its third year as Michigan's only designated International Dark Sky Park. The designation is made by the International Dark Sky Association, and has brought a tremendous amount of community awareness to the night sky as a statewide-resource worth protecting.

To honor this achievement, and to continue local efforts to raise awareness about why dark skies are essential, Emmet County is hosting the program “Great Lakes, Dark Skies.” The program is open to the public, and is the inaugural event that will occur each year as a way to bring night sky enthusiasts throughout the region together for an open forum on night sky issues, developments in the world of astronomy and outdoor lighting, and more.

“Michigan is unique in the U.S. as the first state to protect its own dark skies with the legislation established to protect Lake Hudson State Park in the mid-1990s. Further, following the Headlands designation in 2011, the state passed legislation protecting an additional 23,000 acres of state land, in 2012,” said Mary Stewart Adams, Headlands Program Director. “We now enjoy partnerships with many organizations, including the National Park Service Dark Sky Management Team. The level of interest and demand generated by the Headlands Dark Sky programming puts us in the position of helping to steward natural darkness and to support other communities in doing the same.”

Participants joining Emmet County in discussions of protecting the night sky and stargazing at this dark wilderness will include the Grand Rapids Amateur Astronomy Association, Delta County astronomers (Upper Peninsula), various counties, state park representatives, lighting advocates, amateur astronomers and photographers.

The event will take place at the Dark Sky Viewing Area; follow the signs in the park. Headlands events take place rain or shine. No reservations are necessary and there is no cost to attend.

If you have questions, call Adams at (231) 838-8181 or email


Saturday, May 24

'True North Meteor Shower'


Time: 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. (yes, a.m.!)
Location: Entrance to Headlands

Comet 209P/Linear, discovered in 2004, made its closest approach to the Sun in early May 2014 and will sweep closest to Earth on May 29.  Because comets usually leave a trail of celestial dust in their wake, we may enjoy a brand new meteor shower when we cross Linear's path in the early hours of Saturday, May 24, between 3 and 4 a.m.

Join us the entrance to the Headlands International Dark Sky Park for this possible first-time-ever event, which we are calling the "True North Meteor Shower" because the radiant, or center point from which the meteors seem to shoot, is in front of Polaris, our North Star.

Meteor Showers are not suited to telescopic views, but we will have telescopes and binoculars on hand for viewing the waning crescent Moon and Venus, our morning star. We will gather from 3 a.m. to sunrise at 5:59 am.

No reservations necessary.



Tuesday, April 22

Outdoor Lighting Forum Annual Luncheon

Location: City Park Grill, Petoskey
Time: 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The success of the Headlands programs has inspired the efforts of the State of Michigan to include night sky interpretation in the state park system (especially through Michigan's Public Act 251 in 2012), and in 2013 we drew the attention of the National Park Service Dark Sky Management Team. At this year's OLF luncheon we will celebrate these successes and more with a special guest speaker and a great meal! Public invited for the price of your own lunch, and the public is also welcome to nominate individuals or businesses practicing to be honored for their use effective outdoor lighting in the Northern Lower Michigan area.

Send nominations to:

Photo/Robert de Jonge


Tuesday, April 15

'Field Trip to the Moon, Part II'

Location: Guest House
Time: 12:30 a.m. to 4 a.m. (yes, you read that time right!)


Stay up with Emmet County all night!


Not since 2010 has North America enjoyed the views of a Total Lunar Eclipse, but it's time to make ready. Just after midnight from Monday, April 14, to Tuesday, April 15, the Full Moon will pass through the deepest part of Earth's shadow, causing an eclipse that will last for three hours and 35 minutes from start to finish.

And at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park, that's cause for celebration!

"The exciting thing about this particular eclipse is that, in addition to being the first one that we've seen in awhile, it marks the beginning of a rare series of eclipses known as a Lunar Tetrad," said Mary Stewart Adams, Program Director for the Headlands International Dark Sky Park. "A Lunar Tetrad is a series of four Total Lunar Eclipses uninterrupted by a partial eclipse, and it is something that will only happen eight times in the 21st century."

Eclipse times on Tuesday, April 15 are as follows:

Partial Eclipse begins at 1:58 a.m., local time

Total Eclipse begins at 3:06 a.m.

Greatest Eclipse occurs at 3:46 a.m.

Total Eclipse ends at 4:25 a.m.

Partial Eclipse ends at 5:33 a.m.

In addition to the rare nature of the Lunar Tetrad, Adams noted that each of the four eclipses will be visible throughout North America.  “Lunar Eclipses have been regarded as omens in many cultural traditions, and they continue to provide unique opportunities for scientific research and discovery,” Adams noted.

At the Headlands program "Field Trip to the Moon" on Tuesday, April 15 – starting at 12:30 a.m. (yes, you read that time correctly) and until 4 a.m., guests will enjoy naked eye and telescopic views of the eclipse, storytelling, terrific photographic opportunities and artistic activity. A new activity is planned to add to the cultural significance of this celestial event.

"This year we're partnering with the Mackinaw Area Arts Council to host eclipse sketching," said Adams. She said the partnership arose in part on the observation by astronomers with Astronomy Magazine that while photographing eclipses can be spectacular, notes and sketches made during an eclipse can help to recall details of the phenomena later in ways that are more intimate and personal to one's experience, because they are more true to what the eye can see.

"By making our own sketches we capture not only the unique nature of the event, but also our own perspective, no matter how artistic we deem ourselves," continued Adams, pointing out that the Moon will be near the bright blue-white star Spica in the constellation Virgo, with the red planet Mars nearby. "At eclipse, the Moon appears reddish, Spica will be brilliant, and Mars will add its own color to the scheme."

Local photographer Lorie Axtell will assist in the development of the journals/sketches. “We hope to encourage some writing and journaling of the actual experience and to have guests write down their thoughts and feelings surrounding the event – wherever the mind and imagination take us!” Axtell said. “We could get some poetry or great short stories out of this unique community experience.”

The Headlands Field Trip to the Moon is free and open to the public, light refreshments and some materials will be provided, and guests are encouraged to bring their own blankets, chairs, sketch pads, and perhaps coffee. Reservations are not required. Meet at the Guest House.

If you have questions, call Adams at (231) 838-8181 or email




Friday and Saturday, April 4-5

Owl Banding with Ed Pike and Straits Area Audobon

Location: Guest House
Time:  7:30 to 9:30 p.m.


We are excited to share that once again professional birder Ed Pike, licensed bird bander, will conduct research on migrating saw-whet owls at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park Friday and Saturday, April 4th and 5th, 2014.

On Friday, April 4, Ed invites the Straits Area Audobon Society to observe and participate in his activities, and on April 5, the invitation is extended to the general public. Though the event is free and open to the public, space is limited and reservations are required. 

To study the little-known saw-whet owl ~ strictly nocturnal creatures that depend on plumage for camouflage during the day and deep darkness for mating, migration and predation by night ~ Ed Pike uses mist nets, which he casts into the thickly forested area near the Headlands Guest House. Then, while waiting for the catch, Headlands International Dark Sky Park Program Director Mary Stewart Adams leads participants through the wonders of the night sky. This is an exceptional program for experiencing what's happening in our nighttime habitats -- and why protecting natural darkness matters so much.

NOTE: Because we are dealing with a sensitive nighttime habitat, space will be limited and reservations are required. To make reservations, call (231) 348-1713.



On Friday, April 4, SAAS will hold the fifth annual owl banding demonstration at the Guest House at the Headlands Park near Mackinaw City. It starts at 6:30 pm with a potluck dinner; please bring a dish to pass and your own drink and table service. Afterward, we will help Ed Pike set up mist nests and an owl calling station on-site. Ed targets saw-whet owls, with boreal and long-eared owls also possible. The first net check will be about 30 minutes after sunset. Any captured owls will be measured, aged, sexed, banded, photographed, and released. Ed will demonstrate techniques that biologists use to learn more about these nocturnal hunters and describe his findings during 20 years of banding 2,000 owls of eight species.

In between checking the nets, Mary Stewart Adams, program director of the Headlands International Dark Sky Park will teach us about the heavens either inside, or outdoors if weather permits. Stay as late as you like. The Emmet County Headlands Park is located just west of Mackinaw City. From the entrance, follow the signs to the Guest House. This trip is co-sponsored by the Headlands International Dark Sky Park.



Saturday, March 1

'The Tech Lover's Guide to the Night Sky'

Location: Guest House
Time: 6 to 8 p.m.

Rain, snow or shine!

Stargazing is one of the most enduring activities known to man, practiced continually since ancient times, and not just for pleasure but as a way for humanity to understand its place in the grand celestial scheme. Given the persistent belief through the millenia that the mysteries of our life on Earth can be answered by knowing more about our celestial environment, it is astonishing to consider that it's only been during the last 400 years that man has been using telescopes and technology to foster this research.

At the Headlands International Dark Sky Park on Saturday, March 1, from 6 to 8 pm we will host the program: "The Tech Lover's Guide to the Night Sky," to learn about and marvel at the technology now available for anyone who's interested in reaching into the stars that way. Special guests include area amateur astronomers Rod Cortright, Aaron Reider and Robert Dudd, each with their own technology of special interest.

"Astronomy is exciting as a science because it is one of the few practices where amateurs contribute so much to the research and discovery," said Mary Stewart Adams, Program Director for the Headlands International Dark Sky Park. "So it's great that we have local experts that can guide all levels of interest and ability in choosing telescopes, filters, binoculars, cameras, and more."

The program will be held at the Guest House from 6 to 8 pm, and while this is intended to be an indoor program for hands-on experience with the equipment, if the skies are clear we will certainly step outside and take advantage of the view.

"We will be just past New Moon phase when we gather Saturday night, so the opportunity for deep dark is there," said Adams. "And Jupiter continues to dazzle brilliantly from its place among the stars of the Gemini Twins, just above Orion the Hunter and our brightest star, Sirius. Even without the aid of telescopes or binoculars these are spectacular sights, but with the technology available, we may get a peak at the area in Ursa Major where the supernova recently exploded, or even the Moons of Jupiter, which Galieo discovered and thereby ushered in the age of space technology."

For more information about the program or with questions, contact Adams at (231) 838-8181 or email

(Sunset is 6:24 pm, followed by moonset at 7:17 pm)




‘Beyond the Telescope: The Storyteller’s Guide to the Night Sky’ 

Location: Guest House at the Headlands
Time: 5-7 p.m. (sunset is 5:07 p.m.)

The Headlands International Dark Sky Park is pleased to present Native American storyteller Joe Mitchell for the program "Beyond the Telescope: The Storyteller's Guide to the Night Sky", Saturday, Jan. 4 from 5 to 7 pm at the Headlands Guest House.

"The time for storytelling comes when the snow is on the ground," says Mitchell, revealing the participatory ways of indigenous people and how they have lived, historically, according to the principle of "to everything, there is a season."

Mitchell joins Headlands Program Director Mary Stewart Adams for the event, which will include a preview of celestial highlights coming our way in 2014. "Every year brings a new set of phenomena and events which, if you're a storyteller, makes each new cycle very exciting. As a storyteller, what I like to look for are any significant elements that might expose the stuff of myth or legend, or even historical coincidence. And to engage in this research and discovery while also hearing the tales from the native traditions is really a treat."

Sunset will occur at 5:07 pm on the 4th, and the program is designed to occur during that “special time between sunset and starshine, to celebrate the joy of anticipation that comes with the New Year. Venus, in the last few days as our evening star, will be brilliant near the waxing crescent Moon, setting a beautiful stage for the gathering,” Adams added.

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

Reservations are not required.



Saturday, February 8

'Field Trip to the Moon, Part I'

Location: Guest House at the Headlands
Time: 6 to 8 p.m.

The name February is rooted in the Latin word "februum" which means 'purification,' an association that derives from several things that occur during our second month, including: the Roman festival of Februa; cross quarter day, the half-way point between Winter Solstice and Vernal Equinox, which is variously known as Groundhog Day, Candlemas, and  Imbolc; the ancient observation of the lesser mysteries, which required abstinence as preparation for feats of endurance; and traditional observances of the Lenten season of prayer and fasting.


February is unique as the only 'adjustable month' in our calendar, meaning its days are occasionally increased in order to keep the overall calendar in line with the ever-changing rhythm of the cosmos.


This year February holds another unique feature:
The Moon will not come to New Phase at any time during the month.


"Most people are accustomed to hearing about two Full Moons in one calendar month, but it is much less frequent to hear about no New Moon in a month, and in fact, such a phenomena can only occur in February," said Mary Stewart Adams, Program Director for the Headlands International Dark Sky Park. "This can happen because the rhythm used to determine new phase, technically referred to as the 'synodic period' is 29.5 days. When New Moon falls at the end of January, as it does this year, then 29.5 days later, at next New Moon phase, we've moved all the way through the 28 days of February to arrive at March 1st."


To further explain and celebrate this phenomena, Adams will present the program "Field Trip to the Moon," the first of a two-part series addressing the science, myth and mysteries of the Moon.

"During part I of this program, we will focus on the latest in lunar science and discovery including current missions, contemporary theories regarding the Moon's origin, and we will enjoy telescopic views of our nearest companion. Part II of the program will occur in April, when we have the first Total Lunar Eclipse visible in North American since 2011," Adams said.

The program is timed to allow views of sunset from the Headlands, which is at 5:45 pm this evening, followed by structured program from 6 to 8 pm at the Headlands Guest House. Programs are always free, are participatory in nature, include give-aways and refreshments, and offer a unique perspective on the starry skies over Emmet County. They take place rain, snow or starshine!


Friday, September 5

(Please note: This date is a change from a brochure published much earlier in the year. Sept. 5 is the correct date for this program)

'Harvest Moon Dance with Live Music!'

Location: Dark Sky Viewing Area
Time: 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.

The rhythmic rising and setting of sun and moon and stars throughout the season draws forth an abundant harvest from the Earth, and a desire to dance in the rest of us! We are pleased to host the dynamic sounds of Moxie Strings for our first-ever Harvest Moon Dance under the big tent and starry skies. To get a taste of their sound, follow this link: