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Harvard-Smithsonian Observatory: Lecture and Stargazing Open to the Public

This event takes place at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 17, at Phillips Auditorium, 60 Garden Street, Cambridge. Doors open at 7:00 p.m., but get there early . . . even before 6:45 p.m. Seating is first-come, first-served for the main lecture room. The overflow crowd sits in a separate screening room. Admission is free.

Via e-mail from the CfA on Tuesday, March 15: "It looks like the 'weather gods' might smile on us for this Thursday's event!" The winter weather did not permit stargazing in January and February, but it's looking very good for March. Dress for stargazing outdoors!

Free parking is available to everyone after 5 p.m. (Ignore the "staff only" signs.) Drive up to the back, up the hill. The presentation is up the stairs that are opposite the observatory-in-a-box. Mass Ave buses (to points in Arlington and North Cambridge) originate in Harvard Square on the Red Line and travel along Massachusetts Avenue, which is about a 10-minute walk from the auditorium.

For more information and directions, go to or call 617.495.7461.

A line forms early for this event. Please do not cut in line because we will meet inside the auditorium: go to the back left of the seats. The overflow crowd goes into a separate screening room, so everyone gets in to see the presentation. Even if we don't sit together, we will meet in the courtyard after the lecture and before we go up on the roof. At this point, we can collect everyone from the lecture hall and the overflow viewing room.

Sitting at the left rear of the lecture hall is a way to let people find me and an empty seat that much more easily. The lectures are lots of fun, though, and I can certainly understand if you would like to sit up front and closer to the (very entertaining!) talks. Please sit where you are most comfortable. If you are bringing children to the event, you may want to sit toward the front so they can see and ask questions. We will be able to chat after the lecture, while we wait in line for a chance to stargaze through the several rooftop telescopes. Each telescope is usually trained on a different sight in the nighttime sky, so waiting in several lines gives us plenty of time to introduce ourselves. And plenty of exciting objects to observe!

From the CfA:

Monthly Observatory Night
Thursday, March 17, 2011, "Strange New Worlds," Ray Jayawardhana, University of Toronto

Soon astronomers expect to find alien Earths by the dozens in orbit around distant suns. Before the decade is out, telltale signs that they harbor life may be found. If they are, the ramifications for all areas of human thought and endeavor -- from religion and philosophy to art and biology -- will be breathtaking. In his new book Strange New Worlds, renowned astronomer Ray Jayawardhana brings news from the front lines of the epic quest to find planets, and alien life, beyond our solar system.

After the lecture and/or stargazing, we will head to Christopher's in Porter Square:

Christopher's Restaurant & Bar
1920 Massachusetts Ave

Cambridge MA [masked]


Thursday: Open until 2 a.m.

A bar and grill that offers numerous vegetarian options. This I have to see. And taste!

Christopher's is on Massachusetts Avenue, across the street from the Porter Square T stop on the Red Line (and probably closer to the CfA observatory than any point in Harvard Square). If you plan to drive, use the meters on Mass. Ave., and read the street signs about parking rules in Cambridge. Do not -- I repeat, do not -- park in the lot that serves the Star Market, CVS, and Dunkin' Donuts. You will be towed from that lot if you park there and a parking lot attendant watches you walk out of the lot to patronize a store or restaurant that is not in the shopping center.

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  • Cori

    Thanks, Marianne. I was looking forward to the lecture, and did try and get there earlier but I got lost walking there from the T. Perhaps they should have reserved seating if this happens often (like the MOS), but that's not something that you should be concerned with. Oh well, next time!

    March 18, 2011

  • Marianne

    Astronomers have to be the most enthusiastic people when it comes to talking about their work! And the penguins still (almost) stole the show. Thanks to N.F. members who took the initiative and found me. (Maybe I need a glow-in-the-dark meetup sign. . . .)

    March 18, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    Great lecture, and very nice people. Looking forward to the next one.

    March 18, 2011

  • Marianne

    Cori, I was waiting in line by 6:15. Note how the event description emphasizes getting to the lecture early. I have no control over how many people the CfA allows into their auditoriums. The event description suggests three points at which Nerd Fun members can join the Nerd Fun group. And many Nerd Fun members were able to find me after the lecture and go up to the observatory roof last night. If you want to come in April or May, *arrive early.* That's the best approach for these events.

    March 18, 2011

  • Don N.

    The talk was fun and had enough technical to make it fun and interesting. The roof-top time was the best part of the evening.

    March 18, 2011

  • Cori

    I got there just before 7, couldn't find anyone from the group, waited in line for 20 minutes and was finally turned away because both the main auditorium and the overflow rooms were full. Not fun.

    March 18, 2011

  • Marianne

    You can bring a guest to this event if you wish, but I just updated the event so that Nerd Fun members cannot sign a guest onto the Yes list. I want to leave the list open so that 30 Nerd Fun members can sign up.

    February 19, 2011

  • Marianne

    You can get lots more information about these RSVP and Wait List changes by clicking on the "Discussions" tab on the top of this page, then clicking on "Message Board," then clicking on the "Nerd Fun - Boston - Event Related Discussion" folder, then clicking on "NERD FUN: Why RSVP Yes and then not come?" The manual Wait List just helps to make Yes RSVPs more reliable. It has nothing to do with the people who happen to get on the Wait List.

    February 14, 2011

  • Marianne

    I added a Waiting List; it's manual, meaning that everyone on that Waiting List (once it's started) will get an e-mail when a spot opens up. It's up to you to RSVP Yes.

    January 28, 2011

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