The William M. Staerkel Planetarium at Parkland College conducted a public poll as part of its 25th anniversary. The question to the public was, “What is the most fascinating astronomical discovery of the last 25 years?”
Ten choices were available, ranging from the discovery of planets around other stars to the Cassini/Huygens mission to Saturn to the Kuiper Belt beyond Neptune. After roughly four months of voting, the votes have now been tabulated and the winner is Dark Energy!
The Staerkel Planetarium will welcome Dr. Brian Fields from the University of Illinois Department of Astronomy into the dome to talk about the winning topic, Dark Energy. His presentation, now one of the “World of Science” talks for this season, will be held on Friday, April 5 at 7 p.m. Admission is $1 at the door with Friends of the Staerkel Planetarium admitted free of charge.
The term “dark energy” was coined by astrophysicist Michael Turner in 1998, based on Hubble Space Telescope observations of a certain kind of exploding star. Research implied that the universe was not only expanding, but accelerating! Though the nature of dark energy is still a mystery, it could possibly compose 70 percent of our universe! Dr. Fields will explain how we came to discover dark energy and how it continues to be a mystery today.
Dr. Fields earned his PhD from the University of Chicago in 1994. His research focuses on the study of the universe as a whole, dark matter, cosmic rays, and supernovae.
Following Dr. Fields’ presentation, the planetarium will present the fulldome feature, “Dawn of the Space Age.” Ticket prices for regular programming range from $4 to $5. A full schedule is available at www.parkland.edu/planetarium
or by calling the show hotline at 217/351-2446.