The Parkland College Blog

Staerkel Planetarium to Host Total Lunar Eclipse Viewing

Total Lunar Eclipse Viewing at Staerkel Planetarium, May 15

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The William M. Staerkel Planetarium at Parkland College is hosting a free telescope viewing of the total lunar eclipse, weather permitting.

On Sunday, May 15, the eclipse will be visible in most of North America, depending on cloud coverage. In Champaign, the Moon will start to get dimmer after sunset and begin moving into Earth's umbra, or full shadow, around 9:30 p.m. The total eclipse begins around 10:30 p.m. and will last for about 80 minutes.

Planetarium staff and members of the Champaign-Urbana Astronomical Society will set up several telescopes outside the planetarium so visitors can view the moon. The circle drive outside the planetarium and theatre will be blocked off to allow for pedestrian traffic. Visitors should park in the M1 or C4 parking lots.

A lunar eclipse occurs when Earth is positioned between the Sun and Moon. Normally, the Moon would appear full, but Earth's shadow can cover the Moon entirely, making it much dimmer. A total lunar eclipse looks red due to sunlight refracted through Earth's atmosphere.

For more information about the event, the planetarium, or booking the dome, please call 217/351-2567 or visit parkland.edu/planetarium

Staerkel Planetarium to Present Birdwatching Lecture

Parkland Planetarium Hosts Local Birdwatcher, Jeffrey Bryant

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Local avian enthusiasts are invited to join the William M. Staerkel Planetarium at Parkland College for a lecture on birdwatching.

On Wednesday, March 9 at 7 p.m., Jeffrey Bryant will present "Birds: It's Not About What but Where." Tickets are $2 or free for Friends of the Staerkel Planetarium.

Bryant, an avid birder, visits several locations around east central Illinois to observe and photograph various species. For this lecture, planetarium producer and Bryant's wife Waylena McCully will present hundreds of his photos on the dome, along with bird's-eye views of the terrain where the photos were taken. Attendees may recognize several parks and preserves around Champaign County and other nearby locations.

Bryant earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in physics at Ball State University, researching variable star systems. As part of his work for Wolfram Research, he composes blog posts about visualizations of astronomical phenomena using the Wolfram Language.

Please visit parkland.edu/planetarium for the show schedule or call 217/351-2568 for information about booking the dome.

Kaler Science Lecture to Discuss Sustainable Materials Research

Parkland Planetarium Hosts Kaler Science Lecture Series, March 4

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Next up for the James B. Kaler Science Lecture series at the William M. Staerkel Planetarium at Parkland College is sustainable energy research.

On Friday, March 4 at 6:30 p.m., University of Illinois assistant professor of materials science and engineering Dr. Nicola Perry will present "Ceramics That Breathe: New Materials Development for Sustainable Energy." Kaler Lecture tickets are $2 or free for Friends of the Staerkel Planetarium.

Perry's research group focuses on functional ceramic materials that can improve the sustainability, efficiency, and durability of fuel cells, electrolysis cells, and batteries. During the talk, Perry will describe how her group makes "solid state ionic" materials, a special class of functional ceramics, and tests them in extreme environments to explore new design guidelines.

Perry earned her bachelor's degrees, one in materials science and engineering and one in French studies, at Rice University. She earned her Ph.D. in materials science and engineering at Northwestern University. She was a postdoctoral researcher at Northwestern, MIT, and Kyushu University, and served on the faculty of the International Institute for Carbon-Neutral Energy Research. She received early career awards from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy.

Kaler Science lectures are filmed by Parkland College TV for later viewing. After the talk, the seats will be cleaned before the 8 p.m. show, "Big Astronomy," a program about the staff who maintain Chile's world-class observatories. Admission to fulldome shows is $6 for adults or $5 for children, students, or seniors. Please visit parkland.edu/planetarium for the show schedule or call 217/351-2568 for information about booking the dome.

UI Astronomer to Discuss Lives, Deaths of Galaxies in February

Staerkel Planetarium to Present Kaler Lecture on Galaxies

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Galaxies will feature in February's edition of the James B. Kaler Science Lecture series at the William M. Staerkel Planetarium at Parkland College.

On Friday, Feb. 4, at 6:30 p.m. Dr. Decker French, assistant professor of astronomy at the University of Illinois, will present "The Lives and Deaths of Galaxies." All Kaler lecture tickets are $2 and are free for Friends of the Staerkel Planetarium members.

While galaxies like the Milky Way are actively forming new stars, other galaxies appear to have rapidly ended their star formation after an intense starburst. What makes these galaxies stop forming stars? Researchers have some interesting evidence that supermassive black holes may play an important role.

French researches how galaxies evolve over time using telescope observations of visible light and radio waves. Since light has a finite speed, astronomers observe more distant galaxies to see how they appeared at earlier points in the history of the universe. This information gives astronomers a better sense of how galaxies behave over time.

French received her undergraduate degrees in physics and planetary science at MIT, then earned her PhD in Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Arizona. She was a Hubble post-doctoral fellow at the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, Calif., before joining the UIUC in 2020.

Kaler Science lectures are filmed by Parkland College Television (PCTV) for later viewing on the station. After the talk, the seats will be cleaned before the 8 p.m. show, "Skywatchers of Africa," a program about the astronomy of diverse African cultures. Admission to fulldome shows is $6 for adults or $5 for children, students, or seniors. Please visit parkland.edu/planetarium for the show schedule or call 217/351-2568 for information about booking the dome.

Staerkel Planetarium to Present Kaler Lecture on Evolution

"The Evolution of Family Life: A Case Study in Small Fish," December 3 at 6:30 p.m.

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This December's James B. Kaler Science Lecture at the William M. Staerkel Planetarium will be about evolution, through the lens of fish.

Friday, December 3 at 6:30 p.m., University of Illinois professor Dr. Alison Bell will present "The Evolution of Family Life: A Case Study in Small Fish." Tickets for Kaler Lectures cost $2 or are free for Friends of the Staerkel Planetarium.

Bell, who teaches in the UIUC Department of Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior, researches the various ways families are organized in nature. Her lab focuses on the threespined stickleback, a type of fish whose family structure places the father as the sole provider of parental care. However, there are populations within the species which offer no parental care. Data from Bell's lab offers clues to this variance in social behavior.

Bell earned a bachelor's degree in history, philosophy, and social studies of science and medicine at the University of Chicago, and a doctorate in population biology at the University of California at Davis. Before joining the University of Illinois, she performed postdoctoral research at UC-Davis and at the University of Glasgow. In 2020, she was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The seating capacity in the planetarium is currently limited to 60 people. The Kaler Science Lectures are filmed by Parkland College TV. After the talk, the seats will be cleaned before the 8 p.m. showing of Season of Light, a program about the cultural traditions and astronomy of the winter solstice. Admission to fulldome shows are $6 for adults and $5 for children, students, and seniors. For a show schedule or booking information, please call 217/351-2446 or visit parkland.edu/planetarium.

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