2023 Icko Iben Jr. Lecture in Astronomy
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The James Webb Space Telescope is the most ambitious and complicated telescope ever to be launched into space.  To design, build and test a folding telescope more than 20 feet in diameter took a dedicated team of engineers and scientists.  With the telescope performing beyond expectations,  astronomers are rejoicing in the data that are overturning some of our previous thinking about distant galaxies and other objects. A brief history of the telescope's development will be presented as well as some of the most exciting results so far.


Founded in 1997 and named in honor of Distinguished Professor Emeritus Icko Iben Jr., the Icko Iben Jr. Distinguished Lecture Series brings a noted astronomer to campus to highlight some of the latest developments in astronomy in a forum geared for the general public.


  • Fall 2021: "Einstein’s Waves: Cosmic Sounds from Black Holes and Neutron Stars", Professor Vicky Kalogera, Daniel I. Linzer Distinguished University Professor
    Department of Physics and Astronomy, Director of CIERA, Northwestern
  • Fall 2018: "The Universe Continues to Reveal Surprises", Dr. Wendy Freedman, John and Marion Sullivan University Professor in Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago
  • Spring 2018:  "Exoplanets & The Search For Habitable Worlds," Dr. Sara Seager, Professor of Planetary Science, Physics, and Aerospace Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology 
  • Spring 2015:  "What Scientists Know About The Big Bang,"  Dr. John E. Carlstrom, Subramanyan Chandrasekhar Professor of Astronomy, Astrophysics and Physics at the University of Chicago, and deputy director of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics.
  • Fall 2012: "The Galactic Center: Unveiling the Heart of our Galaxy," Andrea Ghez, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Fall 2010: "Exploring the Dark Side of the Universe," Tony Tyson, University of California, Davis
  • Spring 2009: "Dark Energy and the Runaway Universe", Alex Filippenko, University of California, Berkeley
  • Fall 2008: "The World According to the Hubble Space Telescope", Mario Livio, STScI
  • Spring 2006: "The Mars Exploration Rover Mission", Steven W. Squyres, Cornell University
  • Fall 2004: "Massive Black Holes, or Gravity Strikes Back", Reinhard Genzel, Max-Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics & University of California, Berkeley
  • Fall 2003: "Cosmic Collisions: How Astronomers are Saving the World", David Morrison, NASA Ames Research Center
  • Fall 2002: "The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence", William J. Welch, University of California, Berkeley
  • Spring 2002: "Large Optical Telescopes: The Next Generation", W.L.W. Sargent, California Institute of Technology
  • Fall 2000: "Are We Alone?", Steven Beckwith, Space Telescope Science Institute
  • Fall 1999: "The Universe: Big, Old, Accelerating?", Robert P. Kirshner, Harvard University
  • fall 1997: "Binary Pulsars and Einstein's Gravity", Joseph H. Taylor, Princeton University