Events for the Public

The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics sponsors a variety of free programs for the public. Among these events are Observatory Nights held on the third Thursday of the month (excluding June, July and August). Observatory Nights feature a nontechnical lecture and telescopic observing from the observatory roof if weather permits. The lectures are intended for high-school age and older audiences but children are also welcome. We also sponsor a variety of other special observing events throughout the year. No reservations are necessary, but seating is limited to the auditorium's capacity. Admission is free.

These events--unless otherwise noted--are held in Phillips Auditorium (at the rear of the CfA complex near Madison Street and large parking lot), 60 Garden Street, Cambridge, about 1 mile west of Harvard Square. Parking lots marked for Observatory Staff are open to the public on event nights. Parking is free.

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Monthly Observatory Night
Thursday, September 18, 2014
7:30 pm: What is a Planet?
Owen Gingerich - Gareth Williams - Dimitar Sasselov

In 2006, when the International Astronomical Union voted on the definition of a "planet," confusion resulted. Almost eight years later, many astronomers and the public are still as uncertain about what a planet is as they were back then. Tonight, three different experts in planetary science will present each of their cases as to what a planet is or isn't. And then, the audience gets to vote... is Pluto in or out?

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Special Event
Saturday, October 4, 2014
7:30 pm: Astronomy Day
David Aguilar

This year we celebrate Astronomy Day by viewing the ice giants Uranus and Neptune. Unlike their larger gas-giant cousins, Jupiter and Saturn, these dazzling worlds of brilliant blue and jade green remain a mystery to us back here on Earth. Join us as we view these elusive worlds.

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Monthly Observatory Night
Thursday, October 16, 2014
7:30 pm: Red Dwarf Worlds
Ofer Cohen and Elizabeth Newton

Red dwarfs are the most common stars in the universe. They constitute over 80% of all the stars in the Milky Way. And, they apparently live almost forever. The BIG question is: can they support worlds that harbor life? Join us tonight as we hear two different viewpoints regarding this interesting question.

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Monthly Observatory Night
Thursday, November 20, 2014
7:30 pm: Starlight Detectives
Alan Hirshfeld

"Starlight Detectives is just the sort of richly veined book I love to read - full of scientific history and discoveries, peopled by real heroes and rogues, and told with absolute authority. Alan Hirshfeld's wide, deep knowledge of astronomy arises not only from the most careful scholarship, but also from the years he's spent at the telescope, posing his own questions to the stars." - Dava Sobel, author of A More Perfect Heaven and Longitude

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Monthly Observatory Night
Thursday, December 4, 2014
7:30 pm: The Case of the Mysterious X-rays from Space
Esra Bulbul

While researchers celebrated the Chandra X-ray Observatory's 15 years of operation this past June, they were also puzzled by its latest finding: a mysterious X-ray signal radiating from the Perseus galaxy cluster. Could this be the signature of "sterile" neutrinos and partially explain dark matter? Now that's a good question!