Park Skies are Dark Skies: 2013 Summer Star Parties in Sleeping Bear

Dream On
photo: Dream On by Kenneth-Snyder

EMPIRE, MI – The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (National Lakeshore) will be offering a series of monthly astronomy programs this year. Join Park Rangers and the  the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society (GTAS) for a guided exploration of our night sky and one daytime event. The next Star Party is May 11 with a viewing of the closest star – the sun. Each special event takes place at a different location throughout the National Lakeshore to take advantage of strategic viewing opportunities. Come for star gazing, meteor showers, sun viewing, and storytelling. Kids of all ages can participate in the Night Sky Junior Ranger program.

Visitors enjoying park skies at a Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Star Party. Photos courtesy of the National Park Service

Visitors enjoying park skies at a Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Star Party. Photos courtesy of the National Park Service

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. So visit the National Lakeshore and enjoy park skies by attending the following Star Parties:

May 11 (12:00-2:00 p.m.), Visitor Center Parking Lot in Empire
This is a daytime Star Party to view our closest star – the sun. View the sun using a solar telescope and solar shades. See solar activity, including flares and prominences.

June 8 (9:00-11:00 p.m.), Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive #3 Overlook
View Saturn, the Milky Way, and various constellations. Meet at the Dune Overlook #3, Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. Please park at Picnic Mountain; the next right after the #2 stop.

July 13 (9:00-11:00 p.m.), Platte River Point
View the moon, Saturn, and various constellations.

August 10 (9:00-11:00 p.m.), Thoreson Farm in Port Oneida
The Port Oneida Fair celebration continues into the night. View Saturn and the Perseid meteors.

September 7 (9:00-11:00 p.m.), Dune Climb Parking Lot
View the summer Milky Way and many Deep Sky Objects.

October 21 (8:00-10:00 p.m.), Dune Climb Parking Lot
Celebrate the 43rd anniversary of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore with a starry event.

For all astronomy events, bring a flashlight for the walk back to your car and bug spray, if needed. Park Rangers and GTAS staff will be wearing red glow bracelets at the events.

The monthly Star Parties will be cancelled during inclement weather. The decision is usually made three hours in advance. Please call Park Rangers at 231-326-5135, ext. 331, for a voicemail message with the decision.

All programs are free. Participants need only purchase the Park Entrance Pass or have an Annual Pass displayed in their vehicle to join in the fun.

For more about the National Lakeshore, please go to or their Facebook and Twitter.