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, six times per academic year. 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. Admission is free and seating is first-come, first-served.

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.

The Observatory does not host private events.

Monthly Observatory Night
Thursday, April 16, 2020
7:30 pm: ASTRONAUTS: Women on the Final Frontier
Jim Ottaviani & Maris Wicks, author and illustrator of ASTRONAUTS: Women on the Final Frontier

The first person who will set foot on Mars is alive right now. We believe this, but even if we're wrong we know the first crew to arrive there will look nothing like the ones that landed on the Moon fifty years ago. Our world has changed for the better, and ASTRONAUTS tells the story of the women who built this better world. The main character and narrator is Mary Cleave, an astronaut you may not have heard of. It's not because so many people have been to space; only a few hundred have! It's because this graphic novel isn't about fame. No astronaut you’ll ever meet took the job to get famous — it's adventure and science and wonder that drive them. Comics are ideal for bringing readers into the action, the sights, the sounds, and the feelings of discovering new worlds, and in this talk we'll tell you why! Book sale and signing to follow the lecture.

image of black hole
Monthly Observatory Night
Thursday, May 21, 2020
7:30 pm: The First Image of a Black Hole
Dr. Lindy Blackburn, Radio Astronomer, Center for Astrophysics

By linking radio telescopes around the world, an international team of scientists has been able to capture the first image of a black hole. The picture reveals the dark shadow of the supermassive black hole cast against a backdrop of glowing ultra-hot gas encircling the mysterious object at near the speed of light. Taking the image required collecting petabytes of data and joining the telescopes computationally, creating the Event Horizon Telescope with a synthetic aperture the size of the Earth and a resolving power of billionths of a degree on the sky. I will describe how the Event Horizon Telescope works, what we have learned about supermassive black holes from this first image, and what lies in the future for direct horizon-scale study of black holes through imaging and movie-making.