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Watson Lecture - Illuminating the Dynamic Night Sky: Discoveries from the Zwicky Transient Facility

Wednesday, February 7, 2024
7:30pm to 8:30pm
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Beckman Auditorium
  • Public Event

Every second, a supernova is exploding somewhere in the universe. Astronomers cannot see all of them, but the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF), a robotic camera based at Caltech's Palomar Observatory, enables scientists to capture thousands of such explosions every year, shedding new light on the volatile cosmos. In this talk, Shri Kulkarni, ZTF's principal investigator and the George Ellery Hale Professor of Astronomy and Planetary Science, will discuss the history and development of ZTF, a public-private partnership aimed at the systematic exploration of the optical night sky. Using an extremely wide-field-of-view camera, ZTF scans the entire Northern sky every two days, discovering objects that erupt or vary in brightness such as supernovae, stars being swallowed by black holes, planets being engulfed by their parent stars, comets, and asteroids. Kulkarni will share some of the phenomena this cutting-edge instrument has revealed in its first years of operation and discuss how machine learning is powering an unprecedented new era of discovery at Palomar.


Evening Schedule

Due to weather conditions, the outdoor preshow has been cancelled for your comfort and safety. The talk and Q&A will continue as scheduled inside Beckman Auditorium. 

6:45 p.m. — Doors open, join us inside the auditorium for light music and posters and demos about ZTF.

7:30 p.m. — Talk and Q&A

The live event is in-person and a recording will be made available on our Youtube channel.

About the Series

For more than 100 years, the Watson Lectures have brought the wonder of Caltech research and discovery to the public.

Free and open to the public, the Watson Lecture Series offers a unique and accessible opportunity to learn more about cutting-edge science directly from Caltech's premier researchers. Come early to mingle with your neighbors over food, drink and music, as well as interactive displays related to the evening's topic. Then head inside to hear a stimulating talk and stay to ask your burning questions.

Many past Watson Lectures are available on YouTube.

For more information, please contact The Caltech Ticket Office by email at