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As darkness falls on Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (National Lakeshore), the glorious night sky becomes visible. You can enjoy special night sky experiences at the National Lakeshore this year through a series of monthly astronomy programs from now through October. Join park rangers and the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society (GTAS) for guided explorations of the night sky and even a few daytime events as well. The next Solar Viewing and Star Party event is Saturday, July 26, 4:00-6:00 p.m. and 9:00-11:00 p.m., at Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive Overlook #3. Please park at Picnic Mountain; the next right after the #2 stop. From 4:00-6:00 p.m., there will be a solar viewing opportunity to see the sun up-close. Solar glasses will be available to borrow. Then from 9:00-11:00 p.m., view the stars, Mars, Saturn and the summer Milky Way.
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. The monthly Star Parties will be cancelled if the sky is not visible due to weather conditions. The decision to cancel is usually made three hours in advance. Please call park rangers at 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 be wearing red glow bracelets at the events. For more information about the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society, go to www.gtastro.org.
Each special event takes place at a different location throughout the National Lakeshore to take advantage of strategic viewing opportunities. Come for star-gazing, eclipses, meteor showers, sun viewing, and storytelling. Kids of all ages can participate in the Night Sky Junior Ranger Program.
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:
August 9 (4:00-6:00 p.m.), Thoreson Farm in Port Oneida
This is a solar viewing event. As the Port Oneida Fair ends, the sun viewing begins.
August 9 (9:00-11:00 p.m.), Thoreson Farm in Port Oneida
The Port Oneida Fair celebration continues into the night. View the full moon, Mars, Saturn and Perseid meteors.
September 13 (9:00-11:00 p.m.), Dune Climb parking lot
View the summer Milky Way and many Deep Sky Objects. Park in the row furthest from the dunes facing M-109.
October 8 (5:00-8:00 a.m.), Platte River Point
View a total lunar eclipse. The moon also sets during this event.
October 21 (8:00-10:00 p.m.), Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive #3 Overlook
Celebrate the 44th anniversary of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore with a starry event. Please park at Picnic Mountain; the next right after the #2 stop.
October 23 (5:15-6:45 p.m.), Platte River Point
View the partial solar eclipse until sunset.