I will always remember one backcountry trip, sitting with my wife on the shore of Lake Superior with no artificial lights for miles and we gazed at a sky filled with more stars that one can imagine.
Not everyone can get to such a location where the human world and its lights do not intrude as we did and continue to do. But there is a chance for everyone to enjoy some star gazing during the International Dark Sky Week running from April 4-10 and the events taking place at some Michigan State Parks.
To make this happen, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has announced that a series of state parks across the state will remain open at night for those who would like to do a bit of star gazing away from city lights.
International Dark Sky Week is intended to remind people of just what a wonder the night sky is and how important it is to protect the night. The problem that exists is the intrusion of the lights that humans have put across the globe. This “light pollution” makes it harder to see the night sky clearly and to take in all that we should be seeing at night and it has a negative impact on many of the organisms that live on our world.
In some areas of the Michigan you will notice that the new street lights being used are not only LED units which save power, but they are shielded in such a way as to limit the amount of ambient light that shines into the sky. There is a nationwide effort to reduce the amount of light spilling into the sky, but there is still a very long way to go.
With the programs being offered by the state parks, visitors will be able to view the sky from locations where there is reduced interference from area lights.
During International Dark Sky Week, some state parks will be offering programs while others will provide the space for those wishing to do an evening of self-guided sky watching.
If you intend to head to one of the parks, you may want to take a few items to make your sky viewing easier.
First is a blanket so you will have somewhere to sit or lay and look at the heavens and also a flashlight, as artificial light will be limited. Secondly one piece of gear many people do not think of using for sky gazing is a pair of binoculars. You will be amazed by the difference it makes looking at the sky at night with a pair of binoculars. Stars will stand out that cannot be seen by the naked eye and if you have never looked at the moon with a pair, you should give it a try, you will be amazed.
Now on to the offerings at the state parks across the state during International Dark Sky Week.
Two that stand out are taking place in and near Alpena on the shores of Lake Huron.
On April 8 at 7 p.m. at the Besser Museum Planetarium in Alpena, there will be a program about the night sky. Then later on the same night 10 miles to the north at 8:30 p.m. those who attended the program at Besser Museum are invited to attend a night sky viewing at Rockport State Recreation Area.
Besser Museum Planetarium is located at 491 Johnson St., in Alpena and the Rockport State Recreation Area is 10 miles north on U.S.-23. For more details, contact P.H. Hoeft State Park at (989) 734-2543.
For the most part, programs being offered are free of charge but to enter a state park or recreation area, vehicles must have a Recreation Passport for entry.
Below is a list of the Michigan State Parks that will be offering sky viewing, just be sure to check on the exact times and dates they will be open and to see if any special programs are being offered and if so, if there is a fee.
- Bay City State Recreation Area (Bay County),(989) 684-3020
- Fayette Historic State Park (Delta County), (906) 644-2603
- Hartwick Pines State Park (Crawford County), (989) 348-7068
- Island Lake Recreation Area (Livingston County), (810) 229-7067
- Lake Hudson Recreation Area (Lenawee County), (517) 445-2265
- Maybury State Park (Wayne County), (248) 349-8390
- Metamora-Hadley Recreation Area (Lapeer County), (810) 797-4439
- Negwegon State Park (Alpena/Alcona County), (989) 724-5126
- North Higgins Lake State Park (Crawford County), (989) 821-6125
- Orchard Beach State Park (Manistee County), (231) 723-7422
- P.H. Hoeft State Park (Presque Isle County), (989) 734-2543
- Port Crescent State Park (Huron County), (989) 738-8663
- Rifle River Recreation Area (Ogemaw County),( 989) 473-2258
- Rockport State Recreation Area (Alpena County),( 989) 734-2543
- Seven Lakes State Park (Oakland County), (248) 634-7271
- Sleepy Hollow State Park (Clinton County), (517) 651-6217
- Tahquamenon Falls State Park (Chippewa County),( 906) 492-3415
- Tawas Point State Park (Iosco County), (989) 362-5041
- Van Riper State Park (Marquette County), (906) 339-4461
- Waterloo Recreation Area (Washtenaw County), (734) 475-8307
So spend a little time gazing into the night sky, I guarantee it will create memories you will never forget.
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