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.

total solar eclipse
Monthly Observatory Night
Thursday, September 19, 2019
7:30 pm: Chasing the Total Solar Eclipse at 43,000 Feet
Ed DeLuca and Jenna Samra, Center for Astrophysics

The sun's corona is notable for its million-degree temperatures and its violent eruptions, both of which are powered by energy from its magnetic field. Measuring the coronal magnetic field is key to understanding how this energy is stored, converted to heat, and rapidly released in eruptive events. A new CfA instrument has taken a step toward making this difficult measurement by viewing the last two total solar eclipses from a high-altitude airplane. By observing infrared light emitted by the corona, the Airborne Infrared Spectrometer (AIR-Spec) measures the corona's temperature and density and paves the way for a future instrument that will measure its magnetic field. To view each eclipse, the instrument and its operators flew in the National Science Foundation's Gulfstream V aircraft at an altitude of over 43,000 feet, above the clouds and most of the infrared-absorbing gas in earth's atmosphere. Ed DeLuca and Jenna Samra will talk about the solar corona, the instrument they built, and what they learned by observing the eclipse in infrared light from an airplane.

artist concept of TEMPO
Monthly Observatory Night
Thursday, October 17, 2019
7:30 pm: TEMPO: Atmospheric Pollution Measurements from Geostationary Orbit
Kelly Chance, Senior Physicist in Atomic and Molecular Physics, Center for Astrophysics

The Smithsonian/NASA Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution satellite instrument (TEMPO; will measure atmospheric pollution and much more over North America at hourly time resolution or better and 2km (N/S)×5km (E/W) spatial resolution. It will measure ground-level ozone, its chemical precursors, clouds, and aerosols. TEMPO will be launched in early 2022. TEMPO will measure from a geostationary vantage point 35,786 km above Earth's equator at 93°W. Applications include air quality and health; ozone production; biomass burning; lightning nitrogen dioxide; soil nitrogen and fertilizer application; crop and forest damage from ozone; chlorophyll and primary productivity; water vapor studies including atmospheric rivers, hurricanes, and corn sweat; and rush hour pollution.