The Parkland College Blog

Staerkel Planetarium debuts free virtual Kaler Science Lectures in October

Staerkel Planetarium debuts free virtual Kaler Science Lectures in October

Series begins with "Looking at the Night Sky with Artificially Intelligent Eyes" on October 2

Parkland College's William M. Staerkel Planetarium will be resuming the James B. Kaler Science Lecture Series virtually this fall, beginning with Dr. Gautham Narayan's "Looking at the Night Sky with Artificially Intelligent Eyes," on Friday, October 2 at 7 pm on Zoom, free to the public.

Dr. Gautham Narayan, assistant professor at the Department of Astronomy at the University of Illinois, earned a B.S. from Illinois Wesleyan and a Ph.D. at Harvard. Before joining the University of Illinois in 2019, he was a postdoctoral scholar at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory and was the Barry M. Lasker Data Science Fellow at the Space Telescope Science Institute.

Wide-field optical survey telescopes are now producing too many observations for humans to look through. Buried in these petabytes of pixels are rare and exotic sources like kilonovae, explosions which can be caused by the mergers of neutron stars. Discovering these events is now akin to looking for a needle among thousands of haystacks.

To cope with the deluge of data, astrophysicists employ artificial intelligence (AI). Dr. Narayan will cover how the same algorithms that underlie driverless cars, voice recognition, and your bank’s ability to detect fraudulent transactions is now telling us about the variable sky, and ultimately the nature of dark energy and the fate of the Universe.

The Staerkel Planetarium is offering virtual programs while the dome is closed to the public. Following the Kaler lecture, the planetarium will present Fall Prairie Skies at 8 pm on the same Zoom meeting. This live-narrated tour of the night sky includes a focus on Mars, which is getting brighter in the evening. For a full show schedule and for links to the Zoom meetings, visit the planetarium website or email planetarium@parkland.edu.
 

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