From the email blast:

Planetarium to Open "New" Show Featuring UI Professor

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The William M. Staerkel Planetarium at Parkland College will open a "new" program featuring a University of Illinois astronomer on January 20

Now newly converted from slides to fulldome video, The Stargazer will run at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights through March 18. Admission is $6 for adults, and $5 for students, seniors, and children, all sold at the door. 

The Stargazer is narrated by UIUC astronomer Dr. James B. Kaler and Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura from the original Star Trek). Although the show is not an autobiography of Kaler, it does use his life to show how someone can begin a career in astronomy. The show takes a personal look at gravity, light, and the electromagnetic spectrum and how we can use these tools to decipher the lifestyles of the stars, from star birth to star death.

During his talk, Kaler also mentions a planetarium he built at home when he was 13 years old. His homemade planetarium is currently on display in the Staerkel Planetarium lobby.

The Stargazer was written in 2002 after a banquet address by Kaler to the Great Lakes Planetarium Association. Two planetarians from Wisconsin wrote the show and used a NASA IDEAS grant to fund the production. The original program sold with nearly 160 35mm slides! Last year, Ken Murphy, a professor from Southwest Minnesota State University, and a team of students converted the show to fulldome video format. 

"We're ecstatic to be able to present this show again to public audiences," said Dave Leake, director of the planetarium. "Dr. Kaler was introduced to GLPA (and vice versa) when we hosted the GLPA conference in 1989. He was asked back the next year and proceeded to give an annual astronomy update at the conference for 20 years. We feel it has now come full circle." 

For a full planetarium show schedule, call 217/351-2446 or see

Top photo from Staerkel's Facebook page.