St. Edward student creates video series about solar system

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, January 19, 2022

TJ Danahy, left, and Logan Filos in front of Cloud Gate in Millennium Park. TJ, a seventh grader at St. Edward School, worked with Logan to create a series of educational videos about the solar system. (Photo provided)

TJ Danahy knows about space.

You can ask the St. Edward School seventh grader his favorite fact about space, and you’ll find out it isn’t one specific fact, it’s that there is so much to learn.

“My favorite fact about space is that there is just an endless amount of possibilities of things that are out there,” Danahy said. “There could be some planet out there, or some galaxy that just fascinates you.”

Danahy’s favorite planet is Mars, with its Vallis Marineris — a canyon as big as the United States — and Olympus Mons, an active volcano three times bigger than Mount Everest.

He started learning about and becoming fascinated by space as a young boy, and frequent family visits to Chicago’s Adler Planetarium fed his interest.

“When he was five, I’d find him on his iPad listening to college professors lecture on the beginning of the universe,” said Kim Danahy, TJ’s mother.

So by the time the COVID-19 pandemic hit in the spring of 2020, TJ was investigating ways to do more than visit and learn from the Adler. He wanted to find a way to help.

“Then when the pandemic hit, they told him that they had to shut down, and there was really nothing for him to do,” Kim Danahy said.

That didn’t fly with TJ, who decided to do something on his own.

“I thought, I can still bring the Adler alive,” he said.

He created a video series, Kids Keep Adler, aimed at helping students who are homeschooled or doing remote school learn more about the solar system. While the videos are free to watch on YouTube, TJ is asking everyone who uses them to make a donation to a GoFundMe account set up to benefit the planetarium, which is set to reopen March 4.

The thing is, while TJ knows about space, he really didn’t know much about video production. That part — from writing the scripts to making sure he was looking into the camera when filming — was much harder than he had imagined.

“I used to have dreams of having vlogs and things,” he said. “Not anymore.”

Kim Danahy reached out to a coworker in the Atlanta area whose 16-year-old son, Logan Filos, is in an award-winning film program at Alpharetta High School. Logan came to Chicago first for a long weekend to film, and, when the boys didn’t finish as much as they wanted to, he returned for a week over the summer.

“He did all the filming, the production, the editing,” TJ said.

TJ wrote all the scripts and did all the presenting.

TJ will be happy to be able to visit the Adler again. He said he’s seen all of the sky shows projected on the planetarium dome 10 to 20 times and attended two sleepover events with his father, including one where he persuaded his father to get up at 4:30 a.m. to watch the sun rise over Lake Michigan.

He’s also attended Space Camp at the Kennedy Space Center and in Huntsville, Alabama, seven times — each year since he was old enough to go, and one year when he went twice. He hopes to be an astronaut and visit the International Space Station or maybe even Mars, but if that doesn’t work out, he’d like to be an astronomer.

His seventh grade science teacher, Tracy Mortimer, said TJ is “the utmost joy” to have as a student.

“His enthusiasm for science is not only infectious to his classmates, but to me as well,” she wrote in an email. “I love finding a piece of current space science in the news, and watching TJ get excited on his take about what is happening or his utter amazement at learning something new.”

Now that Kids Keep Adler videos have gone live, TJ said, everyone knows about them, but he kept the project pretty quiet the whole time he was working on it.

“I only told a couple of trusted friends,” he said. “Then when it went live, my mom called the principal (St. Edward Principal Sara Lasica) and I guess she told the teachers, because my science teacher told everyone at the end of class. My friends who knew were looking at me like, ‘She just told your deepest, darkest secret.’”

But, TJ said, it was fine, because if the project is going to take off, people have to know about it.

For more information, visit, see the videos at visit the Instagram account with links to the videos at or donate at



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