The Parkland College Blog

Planetarium Announces Virtual Lecture Series for 2020-2021

William M. Staerkel Planetarium will continue Kaler Lecture Series virtually

The William M. Staerkel Planetarium at Parkland College is pleased to announce the newest lineup of speakers in the James B. Kaler Science Lecture Series, which will continue virtually this year due to the pandemic. 


For more than 25 years, the planetarium has served as a conduit for the local research community to share its knowledge with the general public, and this year will only be slightly different as lectures move to Zoom. Talks occur on the first Friday of the months classes are in session at 7 p.m., and admission will be free.
 
The fall lectures will kick off with UIUC Astronomy Professor Dr. Gautham Narayan speaking about astrophysicists using AI to manage the tremendous amount of data collected by wide-field optical survey telescopes. In November, Katy Huff of UIUC's Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering will present on what's new in nuclear energy.

As we look into the new year, enjoy stunning spring photography from Jeffrey Bryant of Wolfram Alpha, LLC and hear about some of the winged friends we have flying over Central Illinois. Caleb Brooks (UIUC, Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering) will discuss "micro nuclear reactors" based on his work in the Multiphase Thermo-fluid Dynamics Laboratory. 
 
Due to the pandemic, some information might be subject to change. Visit the Kaler Lecture Series page to stay up to date on show listings, or call the show hotline at 217/351-2446. For more information about the Planetarium, visit their website or contact them at 217/351-2567. 

Girl and Boy Scout Merit Badge Workshops at Planetarium

Staerkel Planetarium will conduct two interactive Scout workshops this spring

The William M. Staerkel Planetarium will conduct two interactive Merit Badge workshops for Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts this spring. 


Girl Scout Space Science Adventurer Badge workshop:

  • Thursday, May 21, 7–8:30 p.m.

  • $4 per Scout

Boy Scout Astronomy Merit Badge workshop:

  • Wednesday, May 27, 7–9:30 p.m.

  • $5 per Scout

Please note that these sessions are workshops, not just a show, so scouts must be ready to work! Scouts must bring a pencil or pen and a flashlight covered with red plastic/cellophane. Scouts will receive a booklet based on requirements. The workshop will cover the badge requirements, and scouts will submit the completed work booklet to their scout office to receive the badge.

Advanced registration is required. The registration deadline is a week prior to the chosen workshop (May 14 for Girl Scouts, May 20 for Boy Scouts). There will be no registration taken at the door. There must be a minimum number of registrations to conduct the workshop; in the case of cancellation, refunds will be issued. 

To register, click here. Complete one form per Scout and leader. For more information, call 217/351-2567 or visit parkland.edu/planetarium

PRECS Funded For Three More Years

PRECS has been funded for another three-year cycle

A summer science experience for US community college students at Parkland College has received National Science Foundation funding for a new three-year cycle.

The 10-week PRECS program, or Phenotypic Plasticity Research Experience for Community College Students, will host 10 students for each summer during 2020-2022. During this new cycle, the student stipend has been increased to $6,000 for the 10-week program.

The program involves a boot camp at Parkland College in Champaign that prepares students for the research immersion at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. PRECS focuses on phenotypic plasticity, the phenomenon of a single genotype producing multiple phenotypes depending on environment, and includes research areas as diverse as the interaction between genotype and ozone pollution on maize, the effect of environmental stress on neuroanatomy, and the interactions of genes and environment on fish behavior. 

Originally funded by a three-year grant (#1559908/1559929) from the National Science Foundation, PRECS ran during the summers of 2017-2019. During this time, PRECS hosted a total of 32 students from across the country (IL, NJ, MA, MD, MO, CO, NC, PA, CA), including six Parkland students. PRECS participants have gone on to continue their academic career at their home community colleges and to transfer to four-year institutions. Two PRECS participants are currently pursuing graduate programs, according to Dr. Britt Carlson, program director and chemistry associate professor at Parkland.

"Many PRECS participants secured research positions after completing PRECS, and in three cases, these research positions were in their PRECS host labs," Carlson said. "Participants have attended national conferences and presented their research." Scientific posters created during PRECS for the IL Summer Research Symposium and videos of past participants can be found at https://spark.parkland.edu/precs_research/

Parkland alum and PRECS 2017 student Elliot Ping said of the program, "The great thing about being there full-time is that you really have the opportunity to immerse yourself...You're really involved in everything and you're...getting the hands-on experience too."

PRECS is now accepting applications for Summer 2020; the deadline to participate is March 1. Eligible students: 

  • must be currently enrolled at a community college

  • must be US citizens or permanent residents

  • have completed General Biology I and General Chemistry I (preferred)

Underrepresented groups are encouraged to apply. Preferred students will earn a $6,000 stipend. Housing/food allowances, as well as travel allowances (if needed) are also available. Application materials and more information are available at https://lnkd.in/eg4q_Wi.

As advice to students considering whether or not to apply, Kat Cortez of PRECS 2019 says, "Don't hesitate because you learn so much about yourself and your ability. You're capable of so much more than you think you are. And I think that's what this experience taught me."

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.

[image from nasa.gov]

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