UIUC astronmer Jim Kaler, photo from University of Illinois ArchivesOn 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. 


2018-2019 Lectures

  • October 5, 2018
    "The Truth (and huge benefit) Behind Fracking and Pipelines"
    Just what is “fracking” and how does it affect our climate?   Dr. David Ruzic (UIUC Nuclear, Plasma, & Radiological Engineering) will fill us in on two of the big issues facing our nation.  
  • November 2, 2018
    “The Dark Universe”
    Dr. Jeffrey Filippini (UIUC Physics & Astronomy) will “shed some light” on both dark matter and dark energy and how they shaped the early universe.
  • December 7, 2018
    “The 2018 Volcanic Eruption on Hawaii - Causes and Consequences of a Natural Disaster"
    Beginning in May, 200-foot high lava fountains spurted from a fissure in the Hawaiian Islands, causing damage to homes.  Where did this molten rock originate and why has it piled up to build the world’s tallest mountain?  Dr. Steven Marshak (UIUC Geology) has been there and will give us a first-hand account.  
  • February 1, 2019 
    "Spiderman vs. Spiders:  Marvel vs. the Real World"
    In the movies, spiders are often characterized as dangerous and frightful creatures, but what’s the real story?   What are you more likely to discover in your backyard?  UIUC professor of Entomology, May Berenbaum, will enlighten us!  
  • March 1, 2019 
    “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 how it is different from what you see in the movies.  
  • April 5, 2019
    "Artificial Intelligence: Making a Brain out of Data and Compute"
    Recent advances in artificial intelligence have tempted experts to call the technology “the new electricity.”  Dr. Alexander Schwing (UIUC, Electrical & Computer Engineering) will discuss the history of AI, some of the main principles, demo recent advances, and look at future developments.