Tickets for planetarium shows and lectures may be purchased at the door on the evening of the show, or in advance at the SMC Theatre Arts Box Office (Theatre Arts Complex, SMC Main Campus; limited hours). Shows (except selected guest lectures) are held in the John Drescher Planetarium, located on SMC’s Main Campus in Drescher Hall Room 223. Admission to a single show or lecture is $6 ($5 seniors age 60+ and children age 12 and under). You can enjoy both the Night Sky Show and that evening’s scheduled Feature Show or Guest Lecture for the double-bill price of $11 ($9 seniors and children). For information, visit our website (www.smc.edu/planetarium) or call (310) 434-3005. All shows subject to change or cancellation without notice.
The Night Sky Show
Our Digistar II planetarium projector recreates the celestial wonders of the ever-changing night sky—as you would see it far from city lights—in a 50-minute show updated weekly with the latest news in space exploration and astronomy. Bring the whole family to “tour” the constellations and ask questions about anything related to astronomy. The Night Sky Show costs $6 ($5 seniors age 60+ and children age 12 and under) and is presented on the following dates:
Fri, September 9, 16, 23, 30
Fri, October 7, 14, 21, 28
Fri, November 4, 18
Fri, December 2, 9, 16
Fri, January 6, 13, 20, 27
Fri, February 3
7pm | Planetarium
Feature Shows & Guest Lectures
Planetarium Feature Shows and Guest Lectures are presented at 8 p.m. on Fridays when the Nightly Show is scheduled. For further information, please call (310) 434-4767. Admission is $6 ($5 seniors age 60+ and children age 12 and under).
Special Observing Event:
First Quarter Moon, Saturn,
and a Pretty Double Star!
Come look through a variety of telescopes at the first
quarter Moon, Saturn, and some delights of the early autumn sky! After a quick
observer’s primer in the planetarium, head outside to view the beautiful rings
of Saturn, the Moon’s Appenines and Alps along the eastern margins of Mare
Imbrium, and the pretty multicolored double star Albireo, the “head” of Cygnus
the Swan, almost directly overhead. If clouds interfere, we’ll view
high-resolution images in the planetarium. Dress warmly!
Fri, September 9 | 8pm | Planetarium
Autumn Deep Sky Wonders and Star Party
View beautiful images of a region of the sky defined by
the bright stars of the “Summer Triangle”—an area rich in star clusters,
planetary nebulae, and even a bright supernova remnant—and if weather permits,
we’ll also take a stroll outside to view the real Summer Triangle, pointed out
in visible green laser beams! Also, pick up tips on where you can view these
sky beauties in the eyepiece, and take the opportunity to sign up to join
amateur astronomers at a star party on September 24.
Fri, September 16 | 8pm | Planetarium
Gemini 11 – Fast Rendezvous, Altitude
and More EVA Issues
We continue our 50th anniversary survey of the
underappreciated Project Gemini with a look at the second-to-last mission, Gemini
11. Pete Conrad and Dick Gordon flew a fast single orbit rendezvous simulating
an Apollo Lunar Module seeking the Command Module after a surface visit, used
the Agena target’s engine to boost themselves to an Earth orbit human altitude
record of 739 miles (which still stands), but, like previous crews, found
ambitious spacewalks problematic in the Gemini suit.
Fri, September 23 | 8pm | Planetarium
Guest Lecture: Shelley R. Bonus:
What Will NASA Explore Next?
Guest Lecturer Shelley Bonus will look at early results
from Juno’s first science pass over Jupiter’s polar regions in late August
2016, and explore questions like: Will we be sending a probe to Europa by 2022?
Fri, September 30 | 8pm | Planetarium
Special Observing Event:
Six Day Old Moon, the Ring Nebula,
and a Pretty Double Star!
Take a look through various telescopes at the waxing
gibbous Moon and two of the beauties of the early autumn sky! After a quick
observer’s primer in the planetarium, head outside to view the Moon, the
terraced inner walls of its Copernicus crater, the area around crater
Aristrarchus, and the winding canyon known as “Schroter’s Valley.” Then turn
your gaze to the Ring Nebula, and finish up with a view of double star Albireo.
If clouds interfere, we’ll view high-resolution images in the planetarium. Dress
Fri, October 7 | 8pm | Planetarium
OSIRIS-REx: The Asteroid Sample Return Mission
In September, the OSIRIS-REx mission is scheduled to set
out on a 2-year voyage to rendezvous with asteroid Bennu—a primitive
carbonaceous asteroid with an orbit that carries it relatively close to Earth
every 6 years, and a potentially hazardous object posing a moderate threat of
an Earth impact in the next 200 years—and return with samples. Find out how the
mission intends to accomplish these objectives, and discuss Potentially
Hazardous Asteroids along the way.
Fri, October 14, 21 | 8pm | Planetarium
The Total Eclipse of August 21, 2017
The first total solar eclipse to occur in the
continental USA since 1979 is coming this summer! With the solar corona plainly
visible overhead, a total eclipse is one of those “Must See” experiences.
Making landfall on the Oregon coast, the path of totality curves over 14
states, transiting the entire breadth of the lower 48 before leaving on the
South Carolina coastline. Come review what an eclipse actually is, find out the
path of the eclipse, and discuss viewing safety and weather conditions.
Fri, October 28 | 8pm | Planetarium
Holiday Telescope Buyer Survival Guide
Considering a holiday gift of a telescope for that
budding young scientist or newly star-struck adult? You’ll quickly find a
bewildering array of choices and a whole new jargon when you shop for a
telescope. We’ll de-mystify things and provide some concrete examples and
recommendations for first-time telescope shoppers. We’ve timed this program
early enough to let you get to good suppliers BEFORE they sell out of the best
Fri, November 4 | 8pm | Planetarium
Gemini 12: ‘The End’ – EVA Mastered At
Our 50-year retrospective on Project Gemini wraps up
with a look at the final flight of the series, Gemini 12. Flown in November
1966 by Jim Lovell and Buzz Aldrin, the successful mission was highlighted by
Aldrin’s 3 EVAs. The addition of handholds, foot restraints, and a dialing back
of sheer physical demands allowed an EVA to go entirely according to plan for
the first time. The evening concludes with a summary of the rapid progress in
human spaceflight competency NASA made in this pivotal program en route to the
Fri, November 18 | 8pm | Planetarium
Juno Progress Report
With Juno safely in orbit around Jupiter at press time,
the mission will be roughly 20% through its active science portion by early
December. It is also possible that all the images the mission is going to
acquire will have been shot by this point, since the Junocam is not expected to
last the entire mission due to the severe radiation environment. Come review
early science and imaging results of this fascinating mission.
Fri, December 2 | 8pm | Planetarium
A Winter’s Solstice
As we head into the holiday season, we’ll discuss the
history of various ancient observances of the Winter Solstice, and how they
have evolved and melded with our later Judeo-Christian holidays. People have
long felt the need to face the coming of winter with festivities, and customs
like the burning of the “Yule Log” and hanging of evergreens seem to far
predate the celebration of Christmas in December! We’ll also have a look at a
re-creation of a remarkable planetary conjunction in 2 BC—a leading candidate
for a scientific explanation for the Star of Bethlehem.
Fri, December 9, 16 | 8pm | Planetarium
Special Observing Event:
A 9-Day-Old Moon and Winter Clusters!
Start your 2017 observing calendar with a look through a
variety of telescopes at a 9-day-old waxing gibbous Moon. After a brief
discussion in the planetarium, head outside to view the lunar Apennines and
Alps, the Alpine Valley, and Rupes Recta, the “Straight Wall.” Also take a look
at the entire beautiful jewel box of M45, the Pleiades star cluster, and other
pretty winter star clusters. If clouds interfere, we’ll view high-resolution
images in the planetarium.
Fri, January 6 | 8pm | Planetarium
A Failure of Imagination – The Tragedy of
Just two months after the triumphant finale of the
Gemini Project, the world was rocked by the loss of three astronauts on the
ground. The inaugural crew of the Apollo program—Gus Grissom, Ed White, and
Roger Chaffee—died in a fire during a ground test of their spacecraft atop its
Saturn IB booster. We will examine the accident and some of the surprising ways
in which fixes that resulted from its investigation probably wound up saving at
least one Apollo crew’s lives in space.
Fri, January 13 | 8pm | Planetarium
Starbirth in Orion’s Sword
Deep in the sword of Orion, visible to the unaided eye,
is a massive complex of dust and gas, which we now know to be an active star
formation region. We’ll explore this Great Orion Nebula with stunning images
from ground and space telescopes, and discuss recent discoveries that reveal
the hundreds of potential planetary systems forming within! Note that we have
an observing session on January 27 targeting Orion!
Fri, January 20 | 8pm | Planetarium
Special Observing Event:
Orion, the Seven Sisters, and the Winter
Through a variety of telescopes, explore the winter sky
and the bounty of bright stars surrounding its signature constellation, Orion
the Hunter. Embedded in the Sword of Orion is the mighty Orion Nebula, the
large area of star formation closest to the solar system. After a brief
discussion in the planetarium, head outside to view the lovely Pleiades Cluster
and its neighbors. If clouds interfere, we’ll view high-resolution images in
the planetarium. Dress warmly!
Fri, January 27 | 8pm | Planetarium
Throttleup – The Loss of Challenger
Space flight is difficult and inherently risky, but the
greatest dangers seem to originate not in the energies and velocities involved,
but in the human factors and issues apparently endemic to large hierarchical
organizations. This month marks the 31st anniversary of the loss of the space
shuttle Challenger and her seven-person crew. The institutional lessons of
Challenger brought to light in the subsequent investigation seem to have been
sadly forgotten, as similar organizational issues reared their heads again in
February 2003 with the loss of the shuttle Columbia.
Fri, February 3 | 8pm | Planetarium