NOTE: To help support the ongoing wellness of our community, the William M. Staerkel Planetarium has canceled all activities in the planetarium until further notice.

UIUC astronmer Jim Kaler, photo from University of Illinois Archives

On the first Friday of the month at 7 pm, the Staerkel Planetarium becomes a forum for a local scientist to discuss his or her specialties. 

All audiences are welcome! Admission is only $2 at the door. Teachers, group leaders, invite your classes! 

The series was named for UIUC astronomer Jim Kaler, who gave his time to speak in our series every year for over 20 years. 

2019-2020 Lectures

  • October 4, 2019
    “Nature & Nurture: Examining How Diverse Organisms Adapt to Changes in their Everyday Environment”
    Undergraduate students who participated in PRECS, an NSF-funded research experience for community college students, will present their research projects conducted in systems such as plants, mammals, and worms.  
  • November 1, 2019
    “Small Satellites: Dawn of a New Era”
    Satellite design has now come full circle from the basketball-sized Sputnik to school bus-sized geosynchronous spacecraft, and now back to bread box-sized “CubeSats.” Dr. Michael Lembeck (UIUC Aerospace Engineering) will examine how the size and capabilities of satellites delivering services from space has changed over time.
  • December 6, 2019
    “Soils and Human Security”
    The soil beneath our feet is often taken for granted, but the well-being of our soils affects us from food production to antibiotics. Dr. Andrew Margenot (UIUC, Crop Sciences) will elaborate.   
  • February 7, 2020
    “Supermassive Black Holes”
    What are these massive warps in the fabric of space and how do we know they are there? Get the scoop from Dr. Xin Liu (UIUC Astronomy).  
  • March 6, 2020
    “Chasing Tornadoes: It’s not what you think!”
    Meteorologist and tornado chaser Andrew Pritchard is back to look at tornado climatology in Illinois and what is it like to chase storms. He’ll also look at current research and tips on how to protect yourself from these severe storms.
  • April 3, 2020 (Canceled)
    “Birds of East Central Illinois: Natural Beauty You Probably Didn't Notice”
    Enjoy stunning photography from Jeffrey Bryant (Wolfram Alpha, LLC) and hear about some of the winged friends we have flying over Central Illinois. Some may surprise you!