The Parkland College Blog

Ready for a bachelor's or master's degree? Use your Parkland credits! The following colleges will have representatives on hand this spring in the Student Union (unless otherwise noted) to discuss four-year degrees and transfer options.

Eastern Illinois University
*College Center, X wing lounge

Tuesday, February 11

Monday, March 9

Thursday, April 2

10 am–1 pm

Representative: Ryan Howard






Use Solar Telescopes to See Last Transit Until 2049

Safely watch Mercury pass directly between Earth and the Sun, Nov. 11

The William M. Staerkel Planetarium will host a viewing of the transit of Mercury, the rare occasion where Mercury appears to move in front of the Sun, on Monday, Nov. 11.
The planetarium will join the Champaign–Urbana Astronomical Society (CUAS) in setting up telescopes for the public throughout the morning. weather permitting; the transit will be visible from just after sunrise until 12:07 p.m.
Transits occur when planets pass directly between Earth and the Sun. This can only happen with the planets closer to the Sun, Mercury and Venus. Since the Sun is much larger than either of them and they are much farther than the Moon, they make a small silhouette on the Sun's disk instead of eclipsing our star. Transits of Venus are very rare; two occurred in 2004 and 2012, but the next one will happen in 2117.

Since Mercury is closer to the Sun, transits are a little more common. A transit of Mercury was visible in Champaign in 2006 and in 2016. However, the next one we can see from Illinois will be in 2049, so this Veterans Day will be the last chance to see such an event for a while.
Please note that this is a solar observing event, not a planetarium show. Observing the Sun requires special filters, and Mercury is too small to see the disk without a telescope. The planetarium and the CU Astronomical Society will set up telescopes designed to observe safely. When observing the Sun, you may also see a sunspot or a prominence, but it is unlikely, since the 11-year cycle of sunspot activity has reached a minimum.
The planetarium offers ample parking and a lobby where residents can warm up if the morning temperatures are cold. Participants should park in the M1 parking lot and dress in layers. Call the planetarium at 217/351-2567 for updates to the viewing if the weather seems uncertain.

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Small Satellites Subject of November Kaler Science Lecture

UI's Michael Lambeck to discuss designing CubeSats for LASSI

When Sputnik launched and shocked the world in 1957, many claimed to be able to see the basketball-sized satellite in orbit. Over the decades, satellites grew ever larger and can now be visible in the night sky, but engineers such as Dr. Michael Lembeck are making strides with satellites scaled back to Sputnik's size. He will present his work along with a history of satellite designs for the James Kaler Science Lecture Series at the William M. Staerkel Planetarium.

Dr. Lembeck, director of the Laboratory for Advanced Space Systems at Illinois (LASSI), will give a talk titled, "What goes 'round, comes 'round…the story of how small satellites are making big news" on Friday, Nov. 1 at 7 p.m. Admission is $2 at the door with Friends of the Staerkel Planetarium admitted free of charge.

Dr. Lembeck's work with LASSI includes designing and assembling spacecraft the size of a breadbox called CubeSats. Since most weigh less than 10 pounds, several can included as a secondary mission in rocket launches. Their size allows them to be built by universities, military, commercial, and amateur organizations. Over 1000 CubeSats have been launched in the last 20 years, including two to Mars.

Dr. Lembeck has led or worked on multiple government and commercial spaceflight programs, including JPL’s Galileo Jupiter Orbiter, Space Industries, Inc.’s Wake Shield Facility, Orbital Sciences’ OrbView/Warfighter commercial remote sensing program, and the Northrop/Boeing CEV and Boeing commercial crew programs. As the Requirements Division Director for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, Dr. Lembeck participated in the formulation of President George W. Bush’s Vision for Space Exploration and managed the original development of requirements for the Constellation/Orion program. Dr. Lembeck is an Associate Fellow of the AIAA and a Professor of Practice in the University of Illinois’ Aerospace Engineering Department.

After the presentation by Dr. Lembeck, the Staerkel Planetarium will show the full-dome feature, "Dark Matter Mystery" at 8 p.m. The 2019 premiere of "Santa's Secret Star" begins on Saturday, Nov. 2 at 7 p.m. Tickets for regular programs range from $5 to $6 per person. For a full show schedule, visit the planetarium website or call 217/351-2446.

"Chesley Bonestell: A Brush with the Future" Film Screening

Planetarium, gallery to co-host documentary of "Father of Modern Space Art"

Film Screening: Wednesday, October 9, 7 p.m., William M. Staerkel Planetarium
Free theremin performance featuring Gloria Roubel and Jason Finkelman: October 9, 6:15 to 6:45 p.m., planetarium lobby
Trailer: Available at

What do the Chrysler Building, the Golden Gate Bridge, the film "Destination Moon" and America's space program all have in common? They were each touched by the creative vision of a little known artist named Chesley Bonestell.

The William M. Staerkel Planetarium and Giertz Gallery at Parkland College will present the film screening "Chesley Bonestell: A Brush with the Future" Wednesday, Oct. 9 at 7 p.m. at the planetarium. This award-winning documentary about the "Father of Modern Space Art" explores Bonestell’s impact on America’s enthusiasm for space that began as early as the 1940s and grew into a national phenomenon in the 1950s and 1960s.

Bonestell (1888-1986) inspired us to get to the moon by the use of his paintbrush. His mesmerizing depiction of "Saturn As Seen From Titan" became known as "the painting that launched a thousand careers." His visionary paintings and illustrations in science magazines, books and science fiction movies inspired and continues to inspire scientists, artists, architects, engineers and sci-fi enthusiasts alike.

This documentary chronicles the extraordinary, nine-decade life of this quiet, artistic visionary, whose beautiful paintings continue to inspire us to reach for the stars. It includes interviews with people who were influenced by or knew Chesley personally and is punctuated with rare interview footage of Chesley. 

Adult admission is $10 and children, students, and seniors are $8.

The planetarium is located on the west side of Parkland College's campus; the M1 parking lot is closest to the planetarium. A drop-off circle drive is located south of the M1 parking lot between the theatre and the planetarium. Call 217/351-2446 for a current schedule or visit the planetarium website. 

This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency and through Student Life at Parkland College. Partial funding also provided by Student Life and the Division of Arts and Sciences at Parkland College.

Parkland is a section 504/ADA-compliant institution. For accommodation, call 217/353-2338.

[Chesley Bonestell paintings courtesy of Bonestell LLC]

Parkland Students, Alumni to Present Research at Science Talk

"Nature and Nurture" to feature environmental impacts on genes

Current and former Parkland College students who took part in a scientific research program last summer will present their findings during the first of the season's James B. Kaler Science Lectures at the William M. Staerkel Planetarium next month.

Their talk, "Nature and Nurture: Examining How Diverse Organisms Adapt to Changes in their Everyday Environment," will take place Friday, Oct. 4 at 7 p.m. Admission is $2 at the door with Friends of the Staerkel Planetarium admitted free of charge.

The students conducted research as part of the 2019 Phenotypic Plasticity Research Experience for Community College Students (PRECS) program, a collaboration between the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Parkland College and funded by the National Science Foundation. Phenotypic plasticity is a phenomenon in which changes in physical appearance or behavior occur in genes in response to environmental conditions.

Current Parkland student Isiah Ramos investigated the link between respiratory infections and the worsening of multiple sclerosis symptoms. Erinn Dady, a Parkland graduate and a current UIUC student, studied how plants responded to caterpillars eating their leaves and how their responses may be affected by the root associations they share with fungi. Parkland graduate Justina Lee, also a current UIUC student, monitored the impact of THC on rat behavior, specifically on their anxiety levels.

Following the presentation, the Staerkel Planetarium will show the fulldome feature, "Dark Matter Mystery" at 8 p.m. Tickets for regular programs range from $5 to $6 per person. For a full schedule, call the show hotline at 217/351-2446 or visit

[Image: Parkland students and alumni present research as part of Kaler Science Series.]