Your Park after Dark – Night Skies at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Milky Otter

Milky Otter by Heather Higham

Here’s a list of free programs exploring the night sky at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. They are all free – all you need is a park pass for your vehicle! Programs will be cancelled if the sky is not visible due to weather conditions. The decision to cancel is usually made three hours in advance, and you can call 231-326-4700, ext. 5005, for a voicemail message with the decision. For all evening astronomy events, bring a flashlight for the walk back to your car and bug spray, if needed. Park rangers and GTAS staff will wear red glow bracelets at the events.

Each special event takes place at a different location throughout the National Lakeshore to take advantage of strategic viewing opportunities. You can come for star-gazing, eclipses, meteor showers, solar viewing, and storytelling. These events are the perfect opportunity to Find Your Park in the stars. Starry night skies and natural darkness are important components of the special places the National Park Service protects. National parks hold some of the last remaining harbors of darkness and provide an excellent opportunity to experience this endangered resource. Star Parties will be held on the following dates and times:

May 23 (4:00-6:00 p.m. and 9:00-11:00 p.m.), Dune Climb
On this date, two events offer you opportunities to focus on the sky. The first event’s focus is on our closest star, the sun, using a solar telescope. The second event happens well after sunset. You will have a great chance to view the evening planets, Jupiter and Venus, with the aid of the GTAS and park Rangers. Park in the row furthest from the dunes with headlights facing M-109.

June 20 (4:00-6:00 p.m. and 9:00-11:00 p.m.), Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive #3 Overlook
Please park at Picnic Mountain, immediately following the #2 stop. This is the last full day of spring and the sky events here provide a great way to kick off your summer sky viewing schedule. See the sun up-close from 4:00-6:00 p.m. Return after the sun sets to view the night sky.

July 25 (4:00-6:00 p.m. and 9:00-11:00 p.m.), Platte River Point
Tonight you have a chance to have double the fun. First, see the sun up-close from 4:00-6:00 p.m., then return after the sun sets to view the night sky. Which deep sky object will you see tonight?

August 8 (4:00-6:00 p.m. and 9:00-11:00 p.m.), Thoreson Farm
The Port Oneida Fair celebration continues with a chance to view the sun through a solar telescope beginning at 4:00 p.m. After the sun sets, return to the Thoreson farm to view the night sky. Don’t forget to bring a blanket to make your sky viewing more comfortable.

August 12 (10:00 p.m. – 5:00 a.m.), Dune Climb
A special all nighter is planned, as we have optimal viewing conditions for watching the Perseid meteor shower. Tonight’s “new moon” provides the perfect opportunity to find deep sky objects in a very dark sky. The meteor shower peaks around 2:00 a.m. Please park in the row furthest from the dunes with headlights facing M-109.

September 12 (9:00-11:00 p.m.), Dune Climb
Planets, stars and stories are the resources for our adventure tonight. Please park in the row furthest from the dunes with headlights facing M-109.

September 27 (9:00 p.m. – 12:30 a.m.), Dune Climb
Tonight’s the night to view a total lunar eclipse of the Harvest Moon. Please park in the row furthest from the dunes with headlights facing M-109.

October 21 (8:00-10:00 p.m.), Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive #3 Overlook
What better way to celebrate the 45th anniversary of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore than with a Star Party! Special guests might include “shooting stars” from the Orionids meteor shower. Please park at Picnic Mountain, immediately following the #2 stop.

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