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Public Events

The Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian sponsors a variety of free programs for the public. Among these events are Observatory Nights held on the third Thursday of select months. Observatory Nights feature a nontechnical lecture 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.

These events will be held virtually until it is safe to meet in person and will be live-streamed on our Facebook and YouTube channels.

For more information, including accessibility, or to sign up for the events mailing list, call the Public Affairs Office (617) 495-7461 or email

Observatory Night: Would We Know Life if We Saw It?

7 p.m. Thursday, April 15

Clara Sousa-Silva, Astrochemist, Center for Astrophysics

Over the last few decades, scientists have found thousands of planets beyond our own. Some of those planets might be habitable, and perhaps even inhabited already; but how can we tell? Clara Sousa-Silva, a fellow at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard-Smithsonian, looks for signs of life on other planets using astronomical tools such as spectroscopy to detect faint signals emitted by potential alien biospheres. In this presentation, Clara will draw on her experience investigating strange molecules on strange planets, such as her recent work exploring the possibility of phosphine on Venus, answering the question: “Would we know life if we saw it?”

This event will be held virtually and will be live-streamed on our Facebook and YouTube channels.


Observatory Night: All that Glitters is Gold

7 p.m. Thursday, May 20

Edo Berger, Astronomer, Center for Astrophysics

The cosmic origin of gold has fascinated humans for millennia. In this talk, Professor of Astronomy Edo Berger will explore the long-standing question of how gold (and other rare elements) are created in the universe, showing that this process is intimately connected to the collision of neutron stars (the remnants of powerful supernova explosions) — and the production of gravitational waves.

This event will be held virtually and will be live-streamed on our Facebook and YouTube channels.


Enjoy our catalog of previous Public Observatory Nights at our YouTube channel, including this featured presentation on NASA's Parker Solar Probe.