Star party and solar viewing returns to Sleeping Bear Dunes

From staff reports

Mark your calendars. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is thrilled to announce the return of the popular Star Party and Solar Viewing events.

Join park rangers and astronomers from the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society (GTAS) at the Dune Climb parking lot Saturday, July 13, from 9-11 pm. Rangers will provide information on preserving dark skies, and GTAS will have telescopes set up for visitors to enjoy. Highlights for viewing during the Star Party will include the moon, which will be in its waxing gibbous phase. Some very prominent craters will be visible near the moon’s terminator (the sunrise line on the Moon where the shadows are long). The multiple star system of Mizar and Alcor in the Big Dipper’s handle will also be featured.

Additional Star Parties for 2024 are planned from 9-11 p.m. on the following Saturdays: Aug. 10, Aug. 31, and Sept. 14.

Note that all Star Party events will be held at the Dune Climb except for the event on Aug. 10, which will be located at the Thoreson farm during the Port Oneida Fair.

Two daytime Solar Viewing events are planned at the National Lakeshore for 2024 as well. These will feature family-friendly ranger-led activities related to the Sun and our solar system. Special solar viewing scopes will also be on-hand, courtesy of GTAS, that allow for safe viewing of our closest star, the Sun.

Solar Viewing events will be held at the Dune Climb from 3-6 p.m. on July 27.

When arriving at the Dune Climb for a Star Party, please park in the row furthest from the dunes with your headlights facing M-109. Volunteers will be assisting with parking. Be sure to stop by the National Lakeshore’s Bear Force One van in front of the Dune Climb for more information and handouts. We recommend bringing a flashlight (with a redlight setting or filter to prevent disrupting night vision, if possible) for the walk back to your car and bug spray. You are welcome to bring your own binoculars, beach chairs, and blankets for a more comfortable experience, and water is always recommended for National Park Service (NPS) programs. For more information about the GTAS, visit

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 cancelled 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.

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 and provide an excellent opportunity to experience this endangered resource.