Stars shine brightly over Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Located far from sources of urban light pollution, take advantage of the extraordinary opportunities for both close-up and panoramic views of the night sky during these free astronomy events.

The 2019 monthly astronomy programs hosted by the National Lakeshore will run from April through October. Park rangers and members of the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society will help you unravel some of the mysteries of the night sky as well as discover more about the daytime sky. The first Star Party will be held on Saturday, April 13, 9–11 p.m. at the Dune Climb parking lot.

Each event will have drop-in telescope and information stations for you to visit at your leisure. Be sure to stop by the ranger greeter table for more information about the stations and their locations. The dark sky in the park provides an excellent opportunity to observe deep space objects, like the Milky Way. For programs held at the Dune Climb, feel free to hike up the dunes during this event to conduct your own personal skywalk.

At the Dune Climb, please park in the row furthest from the dunes with your headlights facing M-109. Overflow parking, within easy walking distance to the Dune Climb, is in the Great Lakes Picnic Area. The picnic area entrance is located just south of the entrance to the Dune Climb. Follow the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail from the parking area to the Dune Climb. Volunteers will be assisting with parking at both locations.

All sky programs offered by the National Lakeshore are free. Participants need only purchase the park entrance pass or have an annual pass displayed in their vehicle to join in the fun. Programs will be canceled if the sky is not visible due to weather conditions. The decision to cancel is usually made two hours in advance. Please 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. You are welcome to bring your own binoculars, beach chairs and blankets for a more comfortable experience, and water is always recommended. Park rangers and Grand Traverse Astronomical Society staff will wear red glow necklaces or bracelets at the events. 

There will be prospects for star-gazing, meteor showers, solar viewing, storytelling and more. Starry night skies and natural darkness are important components of the special places the National Park Service protects. National parks enclose some of the last remaining harbors of darkness in America and provide an excellent opportunity to experience this endangered resource firsthand. These events are also the perfect occasion to “Find Your Park” in the stars and share your adventures at Enjoy the following celestial summer events:

Sleeping Bear Dunes Star Parties 2019

April 13 (9–11 p.m.) Dune Climb

Highlights: Moon, binary stars, brighter deep sky objects late (twilight)

May 25 (9–11 p.m.) Dune Climb

Highlights: Binary stars, brighter deep sky objects late (twilight)

June 8 (4–6 p.m. and 9–11 p.m.) Dune Climb

Highlights: Solar viewing afternoon, Moon, Mars, Jupiter late (twilight)

July 6 (4–6 p.m. and 9–11 p.m.) Dune Climb

Highlights: Solar viewing afternoon, twilight, Moon, Jupiter, Saturn later

August 10 (4–6 p.m. and 9–11 p.m.) Thoreson Farm

Highlights: Solar viewing afternoon, Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, plus some brighter deep sky objects

August 31 (4–6 p.m. and 9–11 p.m.) Dune Climb

Highlights: Solar viewing afternoon, Jupiter, Saturn, summer Milky Way

September 21 (9–11 p.m.) Dune Climb

Highlights: Jupiter, Saturn, summer Milky Way

October 21 (8–10 p.m.) Dune Climb

Highlights: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore 49th Anniversary Star Party. Saturn early, dark, Pleiades, northern Milky Way

For a listing of other programs, check the park’s event calendar

Press release provided by Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Photo(s) by Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore