International Dark Sky Park Opens in Michigan; Only 9 Others in the World

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Starry night sky
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Michigan's nightlife is looking up. The state's first International Dark Sky Park has been created. It's now one of only six in the U.S. and 10 in the world [see update below -Ed]. Think about that. In lots of (too many?) places on Earth, you don't see the full night sky of stars and galaxies. You see bits and pieces that aren't drowned out by light pollution from city streetlights and buildings (many buildings that don't need to be lit up from top to bottom during the night).

Michigan's new Dark Sky Park is a 600-acre stretch of old-growth timber located north of Petoskey, in Emmet County, along Lake Michigan and west of Mackinaw City.

The county-owned property, called the Headlands, was recently designated as a Dark Sky Park by the Arizona-based International Dark-Sky Association after experts measured the amount of light in the area, and found that it offered a clear, unaltered view of the night sky, as explained by

According to the association, some outdoor lighting retrofits are still needed before the Headlands is granted full status as a Dark Sky Park. The county also has passed an ordinance to curtail the growth of artificial light at night in surrounding areas, with the land in and around the park zoned for natural conditions and stringent lumen limits.

Mary Adams, of Harbor Springs, Michigan, an association member, was part of a group of locals that successfully pushed for the Dark Sky designation.

"The designation gives us a place to stand so we can raise awareness of the importance of having a dark night," Adams says. "It's good for the health and well-being of human beings and of nature. It gives us an opportunity to pause and think that we don't only need to be concerned about the quality of our water and our air, but also another resource that belongs to all of us - the night sky."

For more on the disappearance of darkness, see this clip from "The City Dark," highlighted on the International Dark-Sky Association website.

This new designation will hopefully be a boon to Emmet County --- one that doesn't require ripping out trees, constructing new buildings, and lighting them up at night. Several events are planned, including nighttime storytelling, star parties and astrophotography nights. No flashes, please.

[Editor's note: Since this article was published in 2011, the number of certified Dark Sky Parks has increased.]

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