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 $2 for everyone and free for members of the Friends of the Staerkel Planetarium. 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.

2023-2024 Lecture Series

  • October 6, 2023
    "Nature & Nurture: Examining How Diverse Organisms Adapt to Changes in their Everyday Environment"
    Community college students and alumni will present their research performed with the Phenotypic Plasticity Research Experience for Community College Students (PRECS).
  • November 3, 2023
    "Nested Symbiosis: The Hidden Layers of Genes and Microbes that Run Our World"
    Katy Heath (UIUC, Plant Biology) will talk about our work on how genes that are carried in, and shared among, microbial symbionts control many of the visible and ecologically important traits of their plant and animal hosts.
  • December 1, 2023
    “The First Light: Unravelling the Origins of Stars, Galaxies and Black Holes in the Early Universe”
    Kirk Barrow (UIUC, Astronomy) will show how his team’s computer models help us understand how the Universe began.
  • February 2, 2024
    "Imagine a World Where Everyone Can Make Molecules"
    Martin Burke (UIUC, Chemistry) considers the relatively short history of humans making small molecular tools and what societal good can be done if more people had the ability to contribute to the practice.
  • February 23, 2024 (special night!)
    “Birds of Spring”
    Jeff Bryant (Wolfram Alpha) returns to share more photos of Central Illinois birds at their colorful best!
  • April 5, 2024
    “Chasing Tornadoes: It's Not What You Think”
    Andrew Pritchard (Chambana Weather) returns to share more information and videos of thunderstorms.