2024 Icko Iben Jr. Distinguished Lecture Series
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The night sky is fascinating to humans, giving us a window on space beyond our home on Earth. I will describe how we have come to better understand our Universe, and some of the big questions about space and time that we are trying to answer. By studying distant light coming from the earliest moments in time, I will talk about our quest to understand the Big Bang and to find out what the fundamental ingredients of the Universe are, including the mysterious invisible dark matter.


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 2023: "JWST: 25 Years to Build, One Year to Change Astronomy", Professor Marcia J. Rieke. Regents' Professor of Astronomy, Astronomer and Elizabeth Roemer Endowed Chair, Steward Observatory, University of Arizona
  • 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