Spend a night under the stars

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published July 23, 2014

WEST BLOOMFIELD — Outdoor summer activities don’t have to take place during the day.

West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation Commission naturalist Lauren Azoury said nighttime activities can add an element of adventure to learning during the summer season.

Families are invited to spend an evening examining the night sky with Azoury and staff members of the Oakland County Parks at Marshbank Park Aug. 1.

An Evening with the Stars is a seasonal program led by Azoury, and the upcoming twilight excursion will begin in the Marshbank Lodge, where families will engage in an educational experience with the Oakland County Parks staff in their StarLab, or indoor planetarium.  

Azoury, who used to work in the planetarium at Oakland County Parks, said attendees 5 and older will enter the “wormhole,” grab a seat on the floor and learn Greek and Native American narratives about how the stars formed. The Legend of the Coyote — a Native American tale about how the constellations came to be — sets the tone of why the constellations take the shape of animals and pictures, according to Native American folklore, she added.

The star field will then appear on the dome, and gazers will take a tour of the night sky, spotting constellations like the Great Square of Pegasus and the Summer Triangle.

Following the planetarium show, which lasts about an hour, gazers will take what they learned inside the StarLab and apply it to the outdoor night sky, which is “more challenging, but that’s part of the fun,” Azoury said.

Previously, the astronomy events were held behind the Parks and Recreation building, but due to light pollution, star tours were moved to Marshbank Park, which Azoury said is “ideal for stargazing” compared to the other parks in West Bloomfield.

In addition to mapping the stars, glow-in-the-dark games — including a ring toss and hopscotch — will be played, and everyone will receive a star map for the month of August to take home. Azoury said they will teach people tips and tricks for reading the star map.

“We ran a similar program last fall — without the planetarium — and it was a big hit,” Public Information Coordinator Meagan Kurnat said in an email.

Kurnat and Azoury said in an interview that since this is a family-friendly event, it is intended for families and not for parents to drop off their children.

“We have these (astronomy tours) seasonally. So if you come to one, the next one is different,” Azoury said, adding that if people come to all three events, they can potentially learn the whole sky.

An Evening with the Stars will run 8:30-10:15 p.m. at Marshbank Park and costs $9 for residents 5 years and older, or $14 for nonresidents. Food and beverages are not permitted. Marshbank Park is located at 2805 Hiller Road in West Bloomfield. To register for the event, visit www.westbloomfieldparks.org or call (248) 451-1900.