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 18, 2019
7:30 pm: Twenty Years of Science with the Chandra X-ray Observatory
Dr. Belinda Wilkes, Director, Chandra X-ray Center

NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory is celebrating its 20th year of operation in 2019. Chandra, operated for NASA by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, continues to be an indispensable tool for expanding the frontiers of our knowledge in space. No other observatory has Chandra's capability for high-resolution X-ray imaging of cosmic sources on a sub-arcsecond scale, a critical feature for multi-wavelength investigations ranging across astrophysics, from planetary atmospheres to clusters of galaxies. From the discovery of an X-ray jet in its first targeted source, Chandra continues to make discoveries that impact the full range of astrophysics. Chandra uniquely pinpoints the youngest stars buried amongst the gas and dust of star-forming regions, observes the explosions as massive stars run out of fuel and tracks the evolution of the resulting supernova remnants, and measures the complex structure of the hot gas which dominates the baryonic matter in the largest gravitationally bound celestial structures, clusters of galaxies, tracing their turbulent past and present. Dr. Belinda Wilkes will present a tour of Chandra and some of its exciting discoveries, from launch on the shuttle Columbia commanded by Eileen Collins, the first female commander, to current work such as Chandra's first X-ray detection of GW170817, the merging neutron stars detected in gravitational waves by LIGO, which it continues to track its now fading X-ray emission to distinguish between competing models.

Monthly Observatory Night
Thursday, May 16, 2019
7:30 pm: Footprints On Another World: Apollo Plus 50
Dr. Jonathan McDowell, Astrophysicist, Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian

Half a century later, Dr. Jonathan McDowell will look back at humanity's first voyages to another world. In December 1968, the crew of Apollo 8 became the first people to enter the gravitational sphere of the Moon, and seven months later, Armstrong and Aldrin headed for the surface in Apollo 11. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union's moon rocket exploded disastrously as its robot probes competed with NASA astronauts in the race to bring home the first moon rocks. Dr. McDowell will explain how the first landing stood at the tip of an immense effort as engineers from California to Cambridge, MA turned the impossible into history.