Astronomy Day at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

From staff reports

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore will celebrate its second ever Astronomy Day at the Dune Climb. The event will take place on Saturday, July 29. All astronomy events are free with a park pass. This event is the perfect opportunity to “Find Your Park” in observing the sun and 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, providing an excellent opportunity to experience this endangered resource.

Ranger programs throughout the park on Astronomy Day will touch on the significance of our night sky. Family activities at the Dune Climb begin at 3 p.m., followed by the day sky experience from 4 to 6 p.m. when visitors can 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.

At 6 p.m., guest speaker, Dr. Jerry Dobek, a professional astronomer and faculty instructor at Northwestern Michigan College will discuss “Saving the Night Sky” at the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center Auditorium in Empire, Michigan. Dr. Dobek is also the site coordinator/director for Project ASTRO and Project Family ASTRO for the Michigan and Upper Wisconsin sites, and serves as the regional Solar System Ambassador for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. Dr. Dobek is a founding member of, and the regional representative, for the International Dark-Sky Association and has been instrumental in writing lighting ordinances for the townships in Grand Traverse County as well as other counties in Michigan. He will explain what the average person can do to promote dark skies, and keep their home and community safe.

From 7:30 to 8 p.m., park rangers Marie Scott and Matt Ferraro will help visitors plan an evening of stargazing at the Dune Climb. From 9 to 11 p.m., the Dune Climb “Star Party” will provide an opportunity for visitors to discover more about the night sky under the guidance of professional and amateur astronomers. Bob Moler of the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society (GTAS) will introduce visitors to the evening event. As the skies grow darker, telescopes will be provided for closer views of Jupiter, Saturn, and possibly a deep space object as well.

Visitors planning to attend the evening night sky event are asked to park in the row farthest from the dunes, away from the telescopes, with headlights facing M-109. 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.

Outdoor events will be cancelled if the sun and stars are not visible due to 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.

For a listing of future Star Parties and other programs, check the park’s event calendar at For more information about the GTAS, go to