Jessica Mathews /

Livingston County residents and others are invited to come check out the moon, planets, and stars during the largest free public astronomy event in Michigan – and likely the Midwest.

“Astronomy at the Beach” will take place this Friday and Saturday at the Island Lake State Recreation Area.

Event Communications Volunteer and Space Photographer Brian Ottum says the event is for all ages and provides a chance to put a spotlight on space and space science. He told WHMI it’s a one-of-a-kind event that they’ve held for 27 years. Ottum said it’s put on by all volunteers with a passion for the night sky.

The weekend doesn’t mark any astronomical event or happening but Ottum says it’s the best time in Michigan to look at the stars because oftentimes there are clear skies and it’s not very cold, so it’s a good time for a public event.

More than 40 telescopes will be set up by the beach so visitors can see the moon, craters, Saturn’s rings, Jupiter and its moons, and star clusters up close. People will also be able to see sunspots, prominences, stars birthing and dying, and “maybe even another galaxy”.

Solar telescope viewing starts at 4pm until sundown, then dark-sky viewing picks back up again at 8pm and goes until midnight with telescopes presented by the astronomy clubs in the area.

This weekend’s event will feature various speakers and kids activities including a space object scavenger hunt and hands-on interactive experiments. Ottum said they’ll also be talking about getting ready for the total solar eclipse in Ohio next April – adding people are going to want to see it because it’s the last opportunity for 27 years. He described it as a “once-in-a-lifetime” event, and the closest viewing place is in Ohio.

The event will be held rain or shine. Ottum says they’ll have a big tent where exhibits and speakers will be set up so people can still hear the talks and see demonstrations and experiments in the case of any inclement weather.

No registration is required. Ottum encourages anyone who cares about space, astronomy, and exploration to attend – noting they typically average around 3,000 people across the two nights.

Event details and speaker schedule are available in the top provided link.

Ottum was a previous guest on WHMI’s Viewpoint program. That interview can be heard via the bottom provided link.