Champaign, Ill. (WCIA)

We focus on astronomy at the planetarium. For each show we offer, we present a tour of the night sky so people can reconnect with some of the bright stars and constellations we see less often in our light-polluted skies. We often share updates from recent space missions and raise awareness of upcoming events of astronomical significance, such as this month’s lunar eclipse!

We make an effort to highlight all science, especially through the James Kaler Science Lecture Series. The planetarium offers an aesthetically pleasing medium, so we also offer experiences in fine arts and music as well.

The planetarium is an important educational tool for schools and for the community. We provide an immersive environment to help students and the public understand various astronomical concepts and gain an appreciation of our place in the universe. People should know what causes the phases of the Moon and the difference between a plane, a satellite, and a meteor (“shooting star”). I also get a lot of questions about the terms, “supermoon”, “blue moon”, and “blood moon”.

The nearest planetarium is an hour away at Illinois State University. Parkland College has many students who are concurrently enrolled at the university, and the planetarium hosts university students who take introductory astronomy classes as well. Even if there weren’t a mutually beneficial relationship with these institutions, I would see them as colleagues who are also working together to help the community.

If I must brag, I would say that the planetarium is the second largest in the state, so you can’t find such a huge dome in Illinois outside of Chicago. We take pride in being able to host two busses full of schoolchildren on a field trip for a single show.

There is a total lunar eclipse happening on May 15! We are hosting a free viewing event outside the planetarium that night, and people will be able to observe the Moon with telescopes.

We have a new show playing on Friday and Saturday nights in May called Unveiling the Invisible Universe. We are hosting workshops for the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts this month. We have a new light show available that is set to Pink Floyd’s classic album, Dark Side of the Moon.

William M. Staerkel Planetarium at Parkland College
2400 W. Bradley Ave.
Champaign, IL 61821