2017-06-22 / Front Page

Headlands Facility Opens Thursday

Observatory, Event Center on Lakeshore
By Erich T. Doerr


At right: The new Waterfront Event Center and Observatory at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park in Mackinaw City will have its grand opening Thursday, June 22. The ceremony is free and open to the public. The observatory is on the shore of Lake Michigan in the park; it is pictured here from above on the shoreline. (Photograph courtesy of Emmet County) At right: The new Waterfront Event Center and Observatory at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park in Mackinaw City will have its grand opening Thursday, June 22. The ceremony is free and open to the public. The observatory is on the shore of Lake Michigan in the park; it is pictured here from above on the shoreline. (Photograph courtesy of Emmet County) The new Waterfront Event Center and Observatory at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park will have its grand opening ceremony Thursday, June 22, including a ribbon cutting, the dedication of its telescopes, and speeches from local and state officials. The activities will run from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and are free and open to the public.

This is “very exciting,” Headlands Program Director Mary Stewart Adams said. “It’s hard to realize that’s finally done and we are opening up.”

The new observatory building is in the park alongside the shore of Lake Michigan. Construction on the structure began in 2015.

Ms. Adams is looking forward to the public having a chance to see it. While some landscaping work still needs to be done, she said the grounds will be impressive. The building will feature plants on its roof to give the structure a natural look. Ms. Adams asks that visitors please be mindful of non-landscaped areas still in development during the early months of the structure’s use. The building has both zone lighting and a system to make sure no light escapes the structure during stargazing events.

More parking will be available within the park, including the opportunity to drive up to the structure for parking. While there is a small, paved parking lot at the event center, busy summer special events at the Headlands will still require parking outside the park at the neighboring Heritage Village before guests walk in for events. Everyone will park at the Heritage Village for the grand opening Thursday with a special trolley bus from Mackinaw Trolley coming in to transport people from the lot to the observatory.

Thursday’s scheduled speakers are planned to include Ms. Adams, U.S. Senator Gary Peters, Michigan Lt. Governor Brian Calley, State Senator Wayne Schmidt, Executive Director of the United Tribes of Michigan Frank Ettawageshik, and Dave DeBruyn of the Great Lakes Planetarium Association. Emmet County Board of Commissioners Chair Charlie MacInnis will be the master of ceremonies. County Board of Commissioners Vice Chair Jonathan Scheel will dedicate the Roger McCormick 20-inch PlaneWave telescope and the Baiardi Family Foundation solar telescope. A number of organizations that made donations to bring the project to fruition will be recognized during the event.

A ribbon cutting ceremony presented by the Mackinaw City Chamber of Commerce will conclude the activities. The official programming portion of the opening is expected to end at about 4 p.m. with visitors then welcome to tour the observatory and its grounds afterward. Light refreshments will be served.

The first program at the event center after the opening will take place Saturday, July 1. The program is titled “Nature’s Fireworks with the Sky Giants Saturn and Jupiter” and focuses on the solar system’s largest planets. The program will touch on the planets’ connections with mythology and their influence on astronomy in preparation for their upcoming conjunction in 2020. The event will include naked-eye observation of the planets before everyone moves inside to see them displayed on screen using a live look skyward from the observatory’s deep space imaging telescope. The telescope doesn’t have an eyepiece for people to look through. Ms. Adams said the PlaneWave telescope is already in place with the center aiming to have its other two telescopes installed in time for the July 1 event.

The Headlands’ 600-acre property is open the public 24 hours a day every day of the year. The site became the world’s ninth dark sky park in May 2011. Programs for the public are held in the park every month.

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