The Adler Planetarium in Chicago is the oldest continually operating planetarium in the the country. Built in 1930 on the shore of Lake Michigan, the Adler was the first planetarium built in the western hemisphere. The Casper Planetarium was built in 1966, and was Wyoming’s first planetarium. Today, both the Adler Planetarium and the Casper Planetarium offer unique educational experiences in a wide range of astronomy topics. A special example available at the Adler is the Kavli Full-dome Lecture Series. Kavli is a series of lectures about astronomy and astrophysics presented by experts in the field at the Adler planetarium. The third installment, “Are We Alone in the Universe?” debuts on November third. What does this have to do with our planetarium here in Casper? In the past, if you wanted to attend a lecture at the Adler, you had to find a way to Chicago. Today, through the wonder of technology you can attend a special lecture at the Adler by visiting the Casper Planetarium.

The Kavli lectures are presented using a platform called “domecasting”. Using this method, a live presenter at Adler can present the same full-dome content on the Casper Planetarium dome as what is presented on the dome at Adler. The process is very similar to video streaming, but the presenter in Chicago actually controls the dome here in Casper. An audio stream allows us to hear the presenter’s voice and a simple text messaging set up allows our audience to ask questions of the presenter. Yet Casper will not be alone in participating in this dome-cast. Nine other planetariums in the U.S. will also join, making the audience size far larger than the Adler could host on its own on a single evening.

The third Kavli lecture is presented by Dr. Lisa Kaltenegger, director of the Carl Sagan Institute at Cornell University. Dr. Kaltenegger’s research focuses on exploring planets around other stars, what astronomers refer to as exoplanets. Over the past two decades we have discovered thousands of exoplanets.

Dr. Kaltenegger’s lecture examines which of these exoplanets might have conditions suitable for life. She will also discuss techniques and missions that could detect life on these far flung worlds.

Some may jump to the conclusion that a presentation of this nature is about aliens visiting Earth.

However this is simply not the case. While it is comforting to think that humans are not the only intelligent species in the universe and that Earth is not the only planet with life, we simply have no solid evidence that other life forms have visited this planet.

This lecture is about the search for planets that could harbor life, even simple life such as algae. Yet the experience of attending an Adler Planetarium lecture without leaving your home town is not to be missed. The third Kavli lecture, “Are We Alone in the Universe” runs on Friday, Nov. 3 at 6:30 pm. Doors open at 6:00 pm and seating is first come first served.

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