You can see stars all over Boston. No, we're not talking about spotting Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen at the playground with their kids. The stars we're seeking are in the sky over Boston every night – even if the city lights make them a little difficult to see. Stargazing in the city can be very rewarding if you know where to look and you have access to the right instruments, which is where local observatories and planetariums come in. Take your kids to these places to make the whole family feel closer to the stars.
Coit Observatory, Boston University
725 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215
Open Night at Coit Observatory gives the public a chance observe the night sky through telescopes and binoculars, and maybe learn a little astronomy. Open Nights are held most Wednesday evenings throughout the year (weather permitting) and last about an hour. Starting times are 7:30pm during the fall and winter, and 8:30pm during the spring and summer. To find out if Open Night will be held, call the information number at 617-353-2630, no earlier than two hours before the scheduled starting time. Reserve free tickets in advance. FREE
Clay Observatory, Dexter Southfield
20 Newton Street, Brookline, MA 02445 | 617-522-5544
The Dexter Southfield community invites families to Public Telescope Nights at the Clay Center Observatory, which is one of the few wheelchair accessible observatories in the area. Depending on conditions and season, you might see a variety of planets, the Moon, and stars through the Observatory telescope. Visitors also can enjoy a panoramic view of greater Boston from the observation decks, and walk among the constellations on the fiber-optic stars court. Go up to the roof deck (if it’s open) to try your hand at using smaller telescopes. Inside, the kids can see planetary scales, a Mars robot arm, large meteorite, 3-D space display, and amateur radio room.
Public Telescope Nights are held each Tuesday in the spring and fall, weather permitting. Please register in advance. Overcast or rainy weather cancels the event. In case of questionable weather, call (617) 454-2795 one hour before the event for a recorded message. FREE
Gilliland Observatory, Museum of Science
1 Science Park, Boston MA | 617-589-0267
Between 8:30pm and 10pm each Friday, weather-permitting, visit the Gilliland Observatory on the roof of the Museum of Science’s parking garage for Astronomy After Hours. On clear nights, you can view stars, planets, the Moon, and other astronomical phenomena. On cloudy nights, tour the inside of the Observatory and participate in astronomy-related activities run by museum staff.
Catch Astronomy After Hours between the first Friday in March to the last Friday before Thanksgiving. Inclement weather cancels the program. To find out if Astronomy After Hours is running on a given Friday, call the hotline, 617-589-0267, which is updated each Friday by 5:30pm. Admission is free but parking is not, so you may want to take the T. FREE
Charles Hayden Planetarium, Museum of Science
1 Science Park, Boston MA | 617-723-2500
Introduce your kids to the night sky and wonders of the universe at the Museum of Science, where you can see shows in the technologically stellar Charles Hayden Planetarium (pictured). Shows range from Sesame Street characters teaching preschoolers about celestial wonders in Big Bird's Adventure: One World, One Sky to a Planetarium educator piloting audiences through the universe. $
The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Phillips Auditorium, 60 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA | 617-495-7461
Older tweens and teens who are interested in astronomy might appreciate the Observatory Nights at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, which 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 younger kids are welcome, too.
Observatory Nights are held on the third Thursday of the month, September through May, in Phillips Auditorium (at the rear of the CfA complex near Madison Street and large parking lot). Parking lots marked for Observatory Staff are open to the public on event nights, and parking is free. FREE
Photo: Zeiss Starmaster in Charles Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Science. © Michael Malyszko 2010