Treasures of the Night Sky

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Apostle Islands Starry Skies Initiative logo featuring silhouette of Honeymoon Rock and a starlit dark sky

The Apostle Islands Starry Skies Initiative, launching in 2024, seeks to protect night sky resources in and around the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore through the identification and monitoring of light pollution, public outreach, increasing awareness, and a potential certification for the Apostle Islands as an International Dark Sky Park through the International Dark Sky Association (IDA).

You can help keep those stars shining bright. We will be working with local communities, businesses, and residents on ways to both reduce the light pollution in our area and provide safe, efficient, and cost-effective lighting.

Northern lights over a line of large pine trees at the shoreline - Jeff Rennicke photo

Northern Lights over Little Sand Bay

Northern lights overhead - Jeff Rennicke photo

Northern Lights overhead

Northern lights over Honeymoon Rock - Jeff Rennicke photo

Northern Lights over Honeymoon Rock

It begins with a glimmer, just a hint of brightness on the northern horizon. Then, it builds, rising like an aria. Soon, the night sky is glowing green and red, dancing with light, shimmering like diamonds. The aurora is dancing. The northern lights are gleaming above the Apostle Islands.

To watch the white sail of a full moon gliding across the stars, see the brushstroke of the Milky Way or the flicker of northern lights painting the night sky is to witness one of true the wonders of the world, a gift of nature. And there are very few places in the world where that gift is on display more clearly than the Apostle Islands.

Sand Island Lighthouse with Milky Way-Apostle Islands Print of the Year 2010

Milky Way over Sand Island Lighthouse

The Devils Island Lighthouse and Milky Way-Apostle Islands Print of the Year 2012

Milky Way and air glow over Devils Island Lighthouse

Michigan Island Lighthouse and Milky Way

Milky Way over Michigan Island Lighthouse

Artificial light pollutes the night sky for more than 80% of the world’s population. One third of humanity cannot see the Milky Way at night due to the luminescent glow of artificial light. Artificial light can also harm wildlife and human health. But here in the islands, we enjoy some of the darkest skies in the lower 48 states. Far from the big cities, with clear air, and miles of open horizons, this area is a mecca for night sky viewing – the Milky Way arching across the sky, the constellations spelling out wonder, falling stars punctuating it all.

You can help keep those stars shining bright.

Milky Way over Stockton island - Jon Okerstrom photo

Milky Way over Stockton Island

One of our priority issues for 2024 and beyond will be to look at the potential for protecting our night sky resources here in the Islands through the identification and monitoring of light pollution, public outreach, increasing awareness, and a potential certification for the Apostle Islands as an International Dark Sky Park through the International Dark Sky Association (IDA).

Dark Sky logo

Currently the IDA has certified more than 200 sites in 22 countries on 6 continents including national parks such as Big Bend in Texas, Joshua Tree in California, Capitol Reef in Utah, and Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota as well as other sites including Newport State Park right here in Wisconsin. Wildcat Mountain State Park, the Kickapoo Valley Reserve (KVR) and the Mississippi Valley Conservancy are working together to designate the 13,300 acres of Wildcat, KVR and Tunnelville Cliffs as Wisconsin’s second International Dark Sky Park.

International Dark Sky Park logo - Dark Sky Association

In order for national parks to be officially certified an International Dark Sky Park, they must meet strict criteria set by the IDA, including:

 

  • Demonstrating high-quality starry nights

  • Implementing responsible lighting practices

  • Providing public education and outreach programs

  • Monitoring the impact of artificial light on the night sky

We will need your help too.

 

Light pollution does not respect national park boundaries. We will be working with local communities, businesses, and residents on ways to both reduce the light pollution in our area and provide safe, efficient, and cost-effective lighting.

“It would be a multi-year effort,” Executive Director Jeff Rennicke says, “requiring close consultation and cooperation from both the National Park Service and the surrounding communities, and your help but a Dark Sky Park certification would put the Apostle Islands in a select group of beautiful places across the world in recognizing the incredible resource we have here for night skies.”

Starry Skies Testimonial Teresa Weber, Bayfield Carnegie Library

Our dark skies are a gift filled with beauty and wonder. Preserving dark skies helps showcase that beauty, saves money, and protects wildlife like night migrating birds. It is a gift to all of us, open and available by simply stepping outside at night and looking up.

Join our effort to protect starry skies by clicking below to sign up for special newsletters, events, and information on how you can help us reach for the stars through the Apostle Islands Starry Skies Initiative.

Apostle Islands Starry Skies Initiative logo featuring silhouette of Honeymoon Rock and a starlit dark sky

Night sky photography on this page by Jeff Rennicke, Mark Weller, Carol and Roy Toepke, Jon Okerstrom

More Starry Skies stories

Canoecopia 2024 includes presentations on protecting our Starry Skies, paddling the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Canoecopia 2024 includes presentations on protecting our Starry Skies, paddling the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

If paddling the amazing sea caves in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is on your bucket list, we invite you to see us at Canoecopia in Madison, Wisconsin, March 8-10, 2024. This annual event includes more than 100 educational presentations and clinics on kayaking, canoeing and related topics, including presentations by Friends Executive Director Jeff Rennicke and Ranger Steve Ballou of the National Park Service. You’ll also be able to learn from the experts what gear you need to safely explore the islands.

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Reading the sacred skies: new book offered by Friends

Reading the sacred skies: new book offered by Friends

peaks to both the human connection to the night sky and hopes for its protection.
Spirits Dancing: The Night Sky, Indigenous Knowledge, & Living Connections to the Cosmos features the photography of Travis Novitsky and text by Annette S. Lee. Novitsky, a member of the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, uses his lens to capture the awe and wonder of the northern lights. Lee’s, both an astrophysicist and an artist, uses her text to range across the universe of night sky topics from indigenous knowledge to the science of northern lights and the responsibility of all to help keep our skies dark enough to experience them.

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Bayfield’s Carnegie Library embraces dark sky protection with planned lighting changes

Bayfield’s Carnegie Library embraces dark sky protection with planned lighting changes

Bayfield Carnegie Library’s motto is “A compass for curious minds.” One of the primary goals of library director Teresa Weber is to enlighten the public. Right now, Teresa is also trying to “enlighten” the walkways leading to the library without negatively impacting the dark skies over the city. Teresa recently spoke with Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore board member Neil Howk about this upcoming project. Neil also serves on the library board.

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Stories that capture the wonder and the possibilities of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore are most-read in 2023

Stories that capture the wonder and the possibilities of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore are most-read in 2023

As we raise a glass to embrace the new year, we look back fondly on the momentus year that was 2023 for Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and for the park we love. Thanks to your support, hard work by a growing team of passionate volunteers and by the Friends leadership team, we have a lot to celebrate.

With your support we helped more people discover the islands, learn about them, and work to protect them than ever before. We set a record for membership, did more outreach trips, more programs, and successfully completed the largest initiative in our organization’s history: Access for All. And there is even more to celebrate about the park and the people who make good things happen for a quarter million visitors each year.

We hope you enjoy this countdown of the top ten stories of 2023 on the Friends of the Apostle Islands website as a great way to start.

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Northern lights celebrated during 6th annual Aurora Summit at Red Cliff

Northern lights celebrated during 6th annual Aurora Summit at Red Cliff

Begun in 2017, the Aurora Summit is an annual gathering and celebration with a mission of helping “people of all backgrounds and experience levels view, photograph, and understand the Northern Lights, while also developing an appreciation for the surrounding art, culture, science and photography of this rare natural phenomenon.”

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“Discover the night” in the Apostle Islands during International Dark Sky Week

“Discover the night” in the Apostle Islands during International Dark Sky Week

30 miles away from the mainland, Devils Island and Outer Island offer some incredible views of the Milky Way – and if you’re very fortunate, the spectacular northern lights – thanks to some of the darkest skies in Wisconsin. In fact, most of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore offers great night sky viewing too, although when you look toward the mainland communities, you’ll see the nighttime glow from city lights. That glow is visible from many miles away.

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