Dark skies presentation Thursday in Hillman

HILLMAN — A dark skies presentation, lead by astronomy expert Mike Russo, will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at Brush Creek Mill, 121 State St., Hillman.

The presentation is designed to be an introduction to star-watching for the budding astronomer and is made possible through a $4,000 Michigan Regional Prosperity Initiative grant that Hillman Community Radio received from the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget.

Dark skies refer to areas with little manmade light, which can make it difficult to see the stars in the night sky.

Russo, who relocated to Hillman because of Montmorency County’s level of darkness, will share how he became interested in astronomy as a boy. He will also speak about dark sky programs and share a slideshow presentation featuring pictures he took on his telescope. Russo will be available for questions and answers following his presentation.

Sue Floer, chairwoman of the Brush Creek Mill board and member of the Hillman Community Radio board, describes the presentation as “mind-opening” and says Russo’s pictures are “amazing” — like something one would see in a book.

“It’s just very interesting and worthwhile to come to,” she said. “It’s just hard for me to say in words just how jaw-dropping this whole program is, because of the photos — and he knows so much.”

Floer said the presentation is part of a larger effort to establish a dark skies program in Hillman, with the Hillman airport as a potential viewing site.

Hillman Village Manager Dave Post, chairman of Hillman Community Radio’s board, said the presentation will help determine how much interest there is in such a program. He said that, before stargazing could begin at the airport, the station’s board would first have to determine whether to move forward with such a program and then obtain permission from the Hillman Village Council.

“We have tested out there to see how dark it is out there, and the airport is an area where it’s very dark,” he said. “It would be a good spot for viewing. It would be easy access and easy to get people there to be able to view (the sky).”

Post said Hillman is high on the Bortle Scale, a nine-level scale that measures the brightness of the night sky. Part of the Hillman area, as well as areas in Montmorency County, are listed as the top two levels of the scale, ranging from a truly dark sky site to excellent dark site. The region also has some rural sky.

“Some of the darkest areas in Michigan is between Hillman and I-75, through that area, and north,” he said. “So there’s plenty of real dark area to view stars and constellations in our area.”

The radio station, also known as WHXR, is considered a low-power radio station and can be heard within a three- to 10-mile radius of the village, depending on the day, by tuning in to 103.5 FM.

Crystal Nelson can be reached at 989-358-5687 or cnelson@thealpenanews.com.

If you go

∫ WHAT: Dark skies presentation

∫ WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday

∫ WHERE: Brush Creek Mill, 121 State St., Hillman

∫ INFO: Astronomy expert Mike Russo will provide information about dark skies and night-watching. The program, sponsored by Hillman Community Radio and a $4,000 state grant, is meant to gauge interest in establishing a dark sky viewing stite at the Hillman airport. Call 989-742-2782 or visit hillmancommunityradio.org for more information.