The sky is the limit at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Join park rangers and astronomers from the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society (GTAS) on Saturday, July 14 at the Dune Climb parking lot. On that date, two events will offer you opportunities to focus on the sky. The first event is from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and will allow visitors to safely view our closest star, the sun, using a solar telescope. The second event will be from 9:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Feel free to hike up the dunes at the Dune Climb during the event, watch a sunset at 9:29 p.m., and rejoin the rangers and astronomers in the parking lot at the base of the dunes.
Take advantage of the very young moon to relax under the stars, view distant celestial objects, observe Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn. Mars will make its appearance around 11:00 p.m.
Each event will feature drop-in stations for you to visit at your leisure. Be sure to stop by the ranger greeter table in the parking lot at the Dune Climb for more information about the stations and their locations. Visit with Friends of Sleeping Bear! We will have a table next to the NPS table.
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 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.
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 for National Park Service (NPS) programs. Park rangers and GTAS staff will wear red glow necklaces or bracelets at the events. For more information about the GTAS, go to http://www.gtastro.org
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.