Michelle Nichols, M.Ed.

I'm an author and speaker with 30 years of experience working at planetariums in the field of astronomy education. Read on for more information about me and the programs I offer.

Purchase copies of my book on eBay!

Astronomy Lab for Kids: 52 Family-Friendly Activities


Michelle Nichols is Director of Public Observing at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, IL, and has worked at the Adler since June 1995. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics and Astronomy from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Master of Education degree in Curriculum and Instruction from National-Louis University. Ms. Nichols leads all of the Adler Planetarium's telescope, observatory, and public sky observing initiatives and events. Before landing at the Adler Planetarium, Michelle worked at U.S. Space Camp (Titusville, FL), the Astronaut Memorial Planetarium (Cocoa, FL), and the Staerkel Planetarium (Champaign, IL).

Since 1999, Michelle has been a popular local speaker, giving hundreds of presentations to more than 130 public libraries, community organizations, and senior living facilities in the Chicago suburbs, Indiana, and Alabama.


Ms. Nichols has also served as an advisor for several children’s books: Superfast Rockets, Space: Surviving in Zero-G, Ellen Ochoa: Reach for the Stars, and The Space Shuttle Challenger Explosion, as well as the Scholastic News Nonfiction Readers series: The Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, The Moon, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto: Dwarf Planet, and Comets. Astronomy Lab for Kids (2016) is Michelle's first book as author.

Image credit: Michelle Nichols


Aug 30 - 7 pm - NASA's Next Great Telescope  - Indian Prairie Public Library

Sep 13 - 6 pm - Looking for Earth Elsewhere - Three Rivers Library, Minooka

Sep 15 - 7 pm - NASA's Next Great Telescope - Wauconda Public Library

Sep 19 - 1 pm - Wild Weather of the Solar System - McHenry County College

Sep 20 - 6:30 pm - NASA's Next Great Telescope - Oak Park Public Library

Sep 22 - 7 pm - NASA's Next Great Telescope - Itasca Public Library

Sep 26 - 6:30 pm - NASA's Next Great Telescope - Bloomingdale Public Library

Sep 27 - 6:30 pm (ET) - NASA's Next Great Telescope - Indianapolis Public Library

Oct 11 - 6:30 pm - How to Use the NRPL Check-Out Telescope - North Riverside P.L.

Oct 18 - 7 pm - Searching for Earth Elsewhere - Frankfort Public Library District

Oct 25 - 7 pm - Women in Space Exploration - JCC of Chicago

Nov 7 - 1 pm - Defining Time - McHenry County College

Nov 14 - 1 pm - NASA's Next Great Telescope - North Shore Senior Center


Please confirm program dates/times, registration requirements, and/or registration residency restrictions with individual program hosts. Confirm with program hosts as to whether program is in-person, online-only, or a hybrid format. All programs are for hosts located in Illinois, unless otherwise stated.


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How to Book a Presentation

Do you need to be an astronomer to enjoy my programs? Absolutely not! My goal for all of my presentations and programs is help inspire anyone to want to learn more, and to transmit my passion and excitement about astronomy and space exploration to my audiences. The PDF at the end of this section is a list of my current presentations, plus new programs that will be available in the near future. 
When I am available: I am generally available on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings. See the list below and my Upcoming Events list for my unavailable dates.
When I am unavailable:
  • Dates booked by other institutions: refer to Upcoming Events list above
  • All Wednesdays (work commitments)
  • August 1 through September 12, 2022
  • October 5-6, 2022
  • November 21-25, 2022
  • December 12, 2022-January 2, 2023
  • April 14-May 14, 2023
  • August 1-13, 2023 (work commitments)
  • September 12, 14, 18, 19, 21, 25, 26, 28, 2023 (already booked for presentations)
  • September 29-October 17, 2023 (work commitments)
  • February 19, 26, 29, 2024 (already booked for presentations)
  • March 4-April 10, 2024 (already booked for presentations & work commitments)
  • July 29-September 2, 2024 (work commitments)
Presentations online or in-person: All my programs are available to be presented in-person or online, and my programs generally last one hour (slightly longer with additional Q&A). I have extensive experience using Zoom Meeting/Webinar, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams. The host organization is required to provide the online videoconferencing account to use for the program. As a program alternative, I can prerecord a video of a presentation* (without a participating audience) to provide to you to post to your account for a mutually agreeable time period. I can also approve requests by host locations to post recordings of my presentations* online (usually for 30 days). *Recordings of The Science of Climate Change will not be approved.
Speaking fees & travel cost: Speaking fee base rate: $150. Travel cost varies by the distance/time needed for travel. Please inquire and I will calculate it for you. Minimum travel cost: $25
  • For in-person, hybrid, or online-only programs where I am presenting from the brick-and-mortar host location, my total fee is base rate + travel cost. 
  • For prerecorded, hybrid, or online-only programs where I am presenting the program from home and no travel is needed, my total fee is base rate only.
  • The speaking fee and travel cost listed above are only for my one-hour programs as listed in my presentation roster and for host locations within 70 miles of Aurora, IL. For programs requiring longer-distance travel and/or for special program topics or special program formats, a higher fee and/or travel cost will apply. Please inquire.
Audio-visual and setup needs: My presentations utilize PowerPoint  . For in-person programs, I can bring my PC laptop, or if you would like me to use yours, I can bring my presentation on a flash drive. My presentations require only a projector, a screen, and a table or podium to set up my computer. I am comfortable using a microphone if your room setup requires use of one.
Age recommendations: All my programs are geared toward adults. If children wish to attend, it is at the discretion of their parents or guardians, though a general recommendation is that programs would be appropriate for children ages 10 and up. I do not offer programs specifically for children as the primary audience.
Need some program suggestions?
  • Are you hosting me for the first time? Try Armchair Tour of the Solar System, Through the Eyes of Hubble, NASA's Next Great Telescope, Roving the Red Planet, or Skywatching With Your Eyes.
  • March is Women's History Month. Try Women in Astronomy or Women in Space Exploration
  • Earth Day is April 22. Program connection: The Science of Climate Change or 12 Things That Make Life on Earth Possible.
  • The James Webb Space Telescope, is in space! Try NASA's Next Great Telescope.
  • Does your institution have a telescope for patrons to check out? Try Skywatching with a Telescope.
  • There is always something interesting to see in the night sky. There is a lunar eclipse on November 8, 2022. All 5 visible planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn) will be in the sky at the same time in late December 2022. Try Skywatching With Your Eyes.
  • The next major solar eclipses will be on Oct 14, 2023 (43% coverage of the Sun in the Chicago area) and April 8, 2024 (94% coverage of the Sun in the Chicago area). Remember the eclipse craziness of 2017? It'll happen all over again -- and possibly even more so this time since the path of the totality portion of the solar eclipse will be about 150 miles closer to Chicago than in 2017. Try The Great North American Eclipse or Skywatching With Your Eyes.
My calendar is already filling for solar eclipse presentations in 2023 and 2024!
  • If you request a date for an eclipse-themed presentation in August-September 2023 and January-March 2024, I will hold the date for you, but you will be required to confirm the date with me NO LATER THAN 6 months prior to your requested date. If the date is not confirmed, I will release it for another organization to book it.
  • If you would like to be placed on a waiting list for one of my already-booked eclipse program dates, please let me know.
  • My available dates nearest the October 2023 eclipse are currently Aug 14, 15, 17, 21, 22, 24, 28, 29, 31 and Sept 11, 12, 14, 18, 19, 21, 26.
  • My available dates nearest the April 2024 eclipse are currently January 4, 8, 9, 11, 15, 16, 18, 22, 23, 25, 29, 30 and February 1, 5, 8, 12, 13, 15, 19, 20, 22, 27, 29. March 2024 dates are already booked.


For questions regarding speaking engagement appearances and fees, or if you would like to purchase my book in bulk, please contact me:

astroeducator {at} aol {dot} com