Quarantine is a great time to gather your household to get a glimpse of these spectacular sky shows, including meteors, moons and planet sightings.
MICHIGAN — Michiganders have been living under Governor Whitmer’s stay-at-home order since March 24. There’s less pollution and clearer skies.
So if you and your family are starting to go a little stir-crazy within four walls, don’t despair — The Gander has put together a list that will help you plan a quarantine-friendly getaway into nature for some stargazing that will soothe your soul after long weeks of screen time and close quarters.
We’ve rounded up the best celestial events coming up and where you can (eventually) catch the best show.
From meteor showers to supermoons to clear glimpses of far-off planets, here’s what you can expect to see in the night sky over the next couple months.
April 21, 22 | Lyrids Meteor Shower Peak
This shower runs annually from April 16-25 and usually produces about 20 meteors per hour at its peak.
The nearly new moon will ensure dark skies and a magnificent show. The shower is best viewed from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Lyra, but can appear anywhere in the night sky.
May 4,5 | Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower Peak
The Eta Aquarids is capable of producing a jaw-dropping 60 meteors per hour at its peak in the Southern Hemisphere, but here in the Northern Hemisphere we can look forward to about 30 meteors per hour. The shower runs annually from April 19 to May 28.
Unfortunately, this year’s nearly full moon will block out all but the brightest meteors, but if you’re patient you’ll still be able to catch a few good ones. The shower is best viewed from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Aquarius, but can appear anywhere in the night sky.
Full Moons, Supermoons, Lunar Events
April 23 | New Moon
The Moon will be located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. Break out your telescope — it will be the best time of the month to view faint celestial objects like galaxies and star clusters because there will be no moonlight to interfere.
May 7 | Full Moon, Supermoon
The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its beautiful face will be fully illuminated. It will also be near its closest approach to the Earth and may look larger and brighter than usual.
May 22 | New Moon
June 5 | Full Moon
June 21 | New Moon
June 4 | Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation
This is the best time to view Mercury, as it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the evening sky. Look for the planet low in the western sky just after sunset.
Michigan’s Dark Sky Parks
Once the stay -at-home orders ease, there are some even better places in Michigan to do some next-level stargazing.
Lake Hudson Recreation Area | Clayton
Lake Hudson is the first dark sky preserve designated in the nation, located in Southern Michigan near the Ohio border.
Negwegon State Park | Harrisville
This park covers a mixture of meadow and forest terrain as well as beautiful sandy beach on Lake Huron. Bring a blanket and spread out underneath the stars.
Port Crescent State Park | Port Austin
Located at the tip of Michigan’s thumb along the sandy shoreline of Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay, this park boasts a special viewing platform for stargazers.
Rockport Recreation Area | Rogers City
Rogers City is a hidden gem when it comes to Michigan recreation, and this park with its 300-acre old limestone quarry and dedicated natural area is an ideal spot for some sublime views.
Thompson’s Harbor State Park | Rogers City
After visiting Rockport Recreation Area, take in the northern night sky from another awesome vantage point at this park, which sits along seven-and-a half miles of gorgeous Lake Huron shoreline.
Internationally Designated Dark Sky Parks
An International Dark Sky Park is designated by the International Dark-Sky Association for its exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment.
Don’t miss these top-ranked parks to do your gazing:
Headlands Dark Sky Park (Emmet County Park) | Mackinaw City, MI
With more than 550 acres of pristine woodlands and two miles of natural Lake Michigan shoreline, Headlands visitors experience an unparalleled escape into nature with the promise of native animal sightings. Note that camping is not allowed on the grounds, but visitors are welcome 24/7 and nearby campgrounds are listed on their website.
Dr. T. K. Lawless Park (Cass County Park) | Vandalia, MI
With seven miles of hiking trails, picnic shelters and children’s play equipment, this park in southwestern Michigan is perfect for a family retreat underneath the stars.
(Note that Department of Natural Resources (DNR) visitor centers and customer service centers are closed to the public until further notice, and grooming and maintenance along hiking trails have temporarily ceased. Visit DNR’s COVID-19 Information Page for the most up-to-date information about state parks during the outbreak.)
For more information on Michigan’s dark sky preserves and when regularly-scheduled events will resume, visit DNR’s Dark Sky website.