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Planetarium Shows Lectures

​​​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 the ww​​m​ 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, February, 24

Fri, March 3, 10, 17, 24, 31

Fri, April 7, 21, 28

Fri, May 5, 12, 19

Fri, June 9, 16, 23

Fri, July 7, 14, 21, 28

Fri, August 4, 11

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).

​​Cataloging the Sky.jpg

Cataloging the Sky

As astronomy moved into the telescopic era, the rapidly growing numbers of objects to observe forced astronomers to organize the exploding trove of information into ever-growing and ever more specialized lists, with arcane object designations like M31, NGC 4565, and B33. But the truth is, with a little deciphering, you can quickly feel at home in the alphanumeric soup of designators. We will trace the development of several of the best known catalogs, and do our best to demystify the language!

Fri, February 24 | 8pm | Planetarium

Winter’s Solstice.jpg

Special Observing Event:

Crescent Moon and Open Clusters

Take a look at a fat six-day-old crescent Moon and its Sea of Tranquility and the Apollo 11 landing site area at dawn, then explore a wealth of open clusters of youngish stars overhead, beginning with the 'seven sisters' in the Pleiades, then moving to the constellation Auriga. We'll begin in the planetarium, then head outside for viewing through telescopes with guidance from our planetarium director. Dress warmly!

Fri, March 3 | 8pm | Planetarium

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Charles Messier and the Faint Fuzzies

French 18th-century comet hunter Messier would be an obscure figure in modern astronomy had he not compiled a list of things he was NOT looking for in his telescopes. His nuisance list became a remarkable catalog of the brightest galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae in the northern sky, and the reason you see "M" in front of numerical designations for many objects in the night sky. Some amateur astronomers even attempt "Messier Marathons" to view all 110 objects in the Messier catalog in a single night, possible only in March and April.

Fri, March 10 | 8pm | Planetarium


TILT! Equinoxes and Solstices Explained

As we move through the Vernal Equinox and mark the beginning of Spring on March 20, most of us are only vaguely aware of what the equinoxes and solstices actually are. Using our Digistar planetarium projector and other imagery, we'll try to remedy this disconnect from the natural world, which makes most modern humans vastly less aware of the rhythms of the sky than our ancestors were. We'll also try to dispel some myths, like that egg story….

Fri, March 17 | 8pm | Planetarium

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The James Webb Space Telescope:

NASA's Next Big Thing

NASA's scientific successor to the Hubble Space Telescope is coming together in laboratories and manufacturing facilities around the world. With a price tag projected to approach $9 billion, JWST has had a profound impact on the space science budget for nearly a decade, but survived every attempt to end the program. We will take a look at the program's difficult gestation and the tradeoffs needed to move it toward a hoped-for 2018 launch.

Fri, March 24, 31 | 8pm | Planetarium

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Special Observing Event:

Gibbous Moon and Jupiter in the Eyepiece!

Come look at the 11-day-old waxing gibbous Moon, with its dramatic shadowing along the terminator—the transition from lunar night to day—and terraced craters and fault-wrinkled ancient basaltic lava. Then take a look at our largest planet, mighty Jupiter, and its main equatorial cloud bands and all four of its Galilean moons. We'll begin in the planetarium, then head outside for viewing through telescopes with guidance from our planetarium director. Dress warmly!

Fri, April 7 | 8pm | Planetarium

Galaxies, Galaxies, Everywhere!

After Edwin Hubble determined in the 1920s that the "Spiral Nebulae" were star cities comparable to our own Milky Way, the study of galaxies became a research hotbed. Our information on these major cosmic building blocks has expanded with our ability to detect different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, allowing us to "hear" the radio voices and "see" gamma and X rays from the energetic cores of galaxies millions of light years away. Come find out about the current state of our knowledge of these fascinating objects.

Fri, April 14, 21 | 8pm | Planetarium

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Summer Star​​​​ Party Planner

Gatherings of amateur astronomers to observe the evening sky are called "star parties," and summer presents good opportunities for beginners to attend these events without having to deal with winter's cold and travel hazards. We'll clue you in on where and when to go, and what to bring to be a welcome star party visitor and participant. You will even have a chance to sign up for information on joining a group of amateur astronomers at a dark site in July.

Fri, April 28, May 12 | 8pm | Planetarium

Gibbous Moon and Jupiter.jpg

Special Observing Event:

Gibbous Moon and Jupiter in the Eyepiece!

Come look at the 10-day-old waxing gibbous Moon, with its dramatic shadowing along the terminator—the transition from lunar night to day—terraced craters like Copernicus, and ancient basaltic lava wrinkled by faults. Then take a look at mighty Jupiter, its main equatorial cloud bands, and four of its largest moons. We'll begin in the planetarium, then head outside for viewing through telescopes with guidance from our planetarium director. Dress warmly!

Fri, May 5 | 8pm | Planetarium

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NASA Human Spaceflight Update

Six years after the final flight of the Space Shuttle, the United States still lacks a domestic human space launch capability. Two different commercial spacecraft are in development for ISS "taxi" duty, but funding has consistently fallen short of requests, so schedules have slipped. Meanwhile, NASA's Orion deep-space exploration capsule has a murky future and an uncertain first flight date with an ill-defined mission. Will "Journey to Mars" remain the NASA mantra, or is a return to the Moon in the offing?

Fri, May 19, June 2 | 8pm | Planetarium

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Juno Science Update

The Juno Jupiter orbiter reached the giant planet in July 2016, and close passes above the Jovian poles are already changing scientists' internal models of the largest planet in the solar system. By mid 2017, we should have a great deal to report on this exciting mission. Is there indeed a solid core to Jupiter? That is one of the basic questions Juno may answer, and we'll bring you up to date!

Fri, June 9, 16 | 8pm | Planetarium

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Summer Deep Sky Wonders

The wonders of the summer sky show us star birth and death, the raw material of planetary formation, mature stars in tight spheres of a million or more, younger stars in looser associations, and literally countless distant galaxies, each with billions of suns. We'll look at beautiful images of some of the finest deep sky objects (DSOs), discuss what they seem to be telling us about our universe, and offer tips on where to go to view these beauties.

Fri, June 23, July 7 | 8pm | Planetarium

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Last-Minute Planning for the

August 21st North American Solar Eclipse

So, you want to view the total eclipse of the Sun on August 21, but failed to plan a year in advance and can't find any hotel rooms or campgrounds? Come find out about the path of totality and possible strategies for seeing the eclipse, as well as what you need to know for safe eclipse viewing. We'll also provide a description and timeline of the partial eclipse as it will appear locally, for those who must remain in the LA area, and we'll talk about the next North American total eclipse of the Sun in 2024.

Fri, July 14, 21 | 8pm | Planetarium


Cassini's Grand Finale at Saturn

NASA's Cassini mission to Saturn, orbiting the ringed planet since 2004, has already given us some of the most unforgettable images in the history of space exploration. As this epic mission moves into its final month and a destructive dive into the cloud tops of Saturn on September 15, we'll review the latest images of Saturn—from a risky vantage point between the rings and the planet—and Cassini's many discoveries.

Fri, July 28, August 4 | 8pm | Planetarium


Solar System Exploration Review

The end of the Cassini mission is an opportune time to review the state of humanity's robotic solar system exploration efforts. What new missions are in the works, and who is proposing to carry them out? Will we see more near-term exploration missions from relatively new players like China and India? Will Mars exploration move into a new phase to support mounting human missions to the Red Planet?

Fri, August 11 | 8pm | Planetarium​