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Dark Sky Festival

December 13, 2019 - December 14, 2019

Northern lights light up the sky in Grand Marais

Dark Sky Festival

Cook County is home to one of the darkest skies in the nation. Every year, explorers, adventurers, artists and photographers from around the world travel to Cook County to experience the northern lights. Help us to celebrate this darkest season of the month at the second annual Dark Sky Festival!

2019 Schedule of Events:

FRIDAY 12/13

6 pm | Turn Out the Lights! Dark Sky Festival Kickoff | Harbor Park, Grand Marais
Celebrate the start of the second annual Dark Sky Festival in Harbor Park! Watch as Grand Marais goes dark for a few minutes to enjoy a dark[er] sky over the iconic harbor.

6:30 – 10 pm | UMD GeoDome Comes Back to Grand Marais! | Voyageur Brewing Company, Grand Marais
Take a journey to the stars with astronomers and galaxy experts in UMD’s traveling planetarium! Outside telescopes will be set up with astronomy students to help guide participants in finding stars and sights in the sky.

6:30 pm | Night Skies of the North and Beyond: Our Unique Resource of Darkness with Bryan Hansel | Arrowhead Center for the Arts, Grand Marais
Cook County has some of the darkest night skies in the world. On the Bortle scale, a scale that rates the darkness of the night skies with 1 being the darkest and 9 the brightest, Cook County is mainly a 2 or 3, but we even have an area of the county that rates a Bortle 1. It’s dark. Join award-winning professional photographer and outdoor educator Bryan Hansel for a presentation about the night skies of the north. He’ll present images from the Lake Superior region and beyond and he’ll talk about how he made those images. Additionally, he’ll address our dark sky resources, health and wildlife issues related to light pollution and what we can do to preserve our night skies and how we can capitalize on the opportunities that dark skies present. You’ll also learn about what you can do in Cook County to help us gain an International Dark Sky Association designation.

7:30 pm | City Lights, Starry Nights Documentary Film with the IDA | Arrowhead Center for the Arts, Grand Marais
Short 25 minute documentary feature on Dark Skies with experts from the International Dark Sky Association Duluth Chapter:  Starry Skies Lake Superior IDA


3:15 pm | Dark Skies Open Forum Panel and Q & A | North House Folk School, Grand Marais
Get all of your Dark Sky questions answered by the experts! Panel includes Bryan Hansel, Representatives from the Duluth Chapter of the International Dark Sky Association, Naturalists from the Superior National Forest, Joel Halvorson (UMD), and more!

4:30 pm | Break for Dinner
Please take this time to head to any of the wonderful dining options available in the area before coming back for more programming later in the evening. Check here to find out which restaurants are open and their hours!

6 pm | Dancers in the Sky: Native Americans and the Night Sky, Presentation by Mark Hollabaugh | North House Folk School, Grand Marais
Cook County resident Mark Hollabaugh is an ethnoastronomer who taught physics and astronomy for 25 years at Normandale Community College. He also taught at the United States Air Force Academy, Augsburg College, the University of Minnesota, and St. Olaf College where he held a joint appointment in the physics and religion departments.  His book The Spirit and the Sky:  Lakota Visions of the Cosmos was published in 2017 by the University of Nebraska Press.  Mark was a consultant on the design of the Navajo-themed star ceiling in the Geosciences, Physics & Engineering hall at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. The closest he ever came to his dream of being an astronaut was meeting Apollo 13 commander James Lovell. In his presentation for the Dark Sky Festival, Mark will discuss how various indigenous cultures in North America understood the night sky.

7 pm | Presentation and Guided Telescope Time with WCCO’s Mike Lynch | North House Folk School, Grand Marais
Meteorologist Mike Lynch has been working for WCCO for over 30 years. In his free time Mike has spent his time studying the stars. He build his first telescope at the age of 15 and for over 40 years has been teaching classes and putting on star parties through Minnesota and Wisconsin. His goal is to help people make the stars their old friends. Mike will spend his time educating and helping everyone in the audience become their own telescope expert. If clear skies allow, audience participants will also get the chance to gaze into the universe on one of Mikes many powerful scopes.

8:30 pm | Dark Sky Adventures with Travis Novitsky and Joel Halvorson | North House Folk School
Travis and Joel will share stories, insights, and adventures to help illuminate the mystery and beauty of the dark skies still found in Minnesota’s Arrowhead region. Travis Novitsky is a life-long resident of the north shore of Lake Superior and a citizen of the Grand Portage Anishinabe Nation.  A self-taught nature and wildlife photographer, he has been photographing the night sky for over 20 years.  Joel Halvorson, UMD, has been teaching and developing educational programs for 35 years. He is currently developing the Boreal Observatory at the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center near the end of the Gunflint Trail. He and his family have been seasonal residents in this area for 33 years.

Interested in learning more about dark skies before the festival? WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs recently wrote an article on Night Skies for Northern Wilds, you can find that here

Listen to an interview by John Barentine, program director of the International Dark Sky Association, talking with Dick Feb. 27, 2015, on WTIP Community Radio about light pollution and the benefits of a dark sky:

Get a sneak peek of Bryan Hansel in action as he chats with WDSE on The Playlist:


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