Astronomy Fest at Sleeping Bear Dunes

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Date: July 15, 2016

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore will be celebrating the 100th birthday of the National Park Service (NPS) with the first ever Astronomy Fest. The event will take place on Saturday, July 23, 2016, from 1:00-11:00 p.m., and will include family activities, special presentations from area astronomers, and solar and night sky viewing with telescopes. 

There will be astronomy talks at the Platte River Campground Amphitheater, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. 

At 1:00 p.m., Bob Moler, president of the Grant Traverse Astronomical Society (GTAS), will be presenting “The Most Amazing 100 Years of Astronomical Discovery, 1916-2016.” Moler is a NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Solar System Ambassador. 

At 1:45 p.m., NPS Mosaics in Science Intern Caprice Phillips will talk about the “Dark Sky” project, why dark skies are important, and how the Lakeshore hopes to become an International Dark Sky Park. Phillips is an astronomy PhD candidate at the University of Texas.

At 2:00 p.m., Jerry Dobek, and astrophysicist and professional astronomer, will present “Light Pollution—A Threat to One of Our greatest Natural Resources.” Dobek is the regional representative for the International Dark Sky Association, and was instrumental in writing lighting ordinances for many townships in Grand Traverse County. 

At 2:30 p.m., Park Ranger Marie Scott will help visitors plan an evening of stargazing with her “Starry Nights” program.

From 4:00-6:00 p.m. at the Dune Climb, visitors will get a chance to safely view the Sun through a solar telescope. Experienced astronomers will share amazing views of our closest star, and rangers will be on hand with activity tables for young astronomers.

Later in the evening, from 9:00-11:00 p.m., the Platte River Point star party will provide an opportunity for visitors to watch the sunset in the company of professional and amateur astronomers. As the skies grow darker, telescopes will be provided, and views of Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars may be available.  

Outdoor events will be cancelled if the stars/Sun are not visible due to bad weather conditions. The decision to cancel will be made two hours in advance of the event(s); please call 231-326-4700, ext. 5005, for a voicemail message with the decision.  

Visitors are encouraged to bring a flashlight for the walk back to their cars, and should bring bug spray if desired. Visitors may also want to bring binoculars, beach chairs, blankets and water.  

This event is the perfect opportunity to Find Your Park in the stars. Starry night skies and natural darkness are important components of the special places the NPS protects. National parks hold some of the last remaining harbors of darkness, providing an excellent opportunity to experience this endangered resource.All astronomy events are free with a park pass. For a listing of future star parties and other programs, check the park’s event calendar. For more information about the GTAS, go to 

As you explore the National Lakeshore, you are encouraged to share your adventures at and on social media using hashtags #FindYourPark and #sleepingbearnps.

Last updated: July 20, 2016

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