​​​​​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​w.smc.edu/planetariu​m​ or call (310) 434-3005. All shows subject to change or cancellation without notice.​

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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 16, 23 

Fri, March 2, 9, 16, 23, 30   

Fri, April 6, 20, 27 

Fri, May 4, 11, 18 

Fri, June 8, 15, 22 

Fri, July 6, 13, 20, 27 

Fri, August 3, 10 

7 p.m. | 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).

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The TESS Mission: Exoplanet Targets for Webb 

Currently slotted into a March 2018 launch date, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) will search the near-solar neighborhood of over 200,000 stars for planets crossing between TESS and the parent star, making it possible to target those newly discovered planets for more information from the James Webb Space Telescope when it launches in Fall 2018. 

Fri, February 16 | 8 p.m. | Planetarium​

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Special Observing Event: 8-Day-Old Moon: Lunar Apennines, Alps, and the Straight Wall! 

Take a look at an 8-day-old waxing gibbous Moon and its Apennines and Alps, Alpine Valley, and Rupes Recta, better known as the “Straight Wall.” We will frame the entire beautiful jewel box of M45, the Pleiades star cluster, and may have a look at selected other pretty winter star clusters. We’ll begin in the planetarium, then head outside for viewing through telescopes with guidance from our planetarium director. Dress warmly! 

Fri, February 23 | 8 p.m. | Planetarium​

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Commercial Space Update 

Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic are just some of the commercial ventures hoping to be part of the first wave of private human spaceflight, as well as providing satellite launch services at lower cost than older players in the industry. With NASA human spaceflight pivoting to a lunar return prior to heading for Mars, it’s a fair question whether there will be commercial companies already operating on or around the Moon by the time NASA gets there with crewed Orion spacecraft. We’ll try to sort out likely near-term events in this ongoing evolution. 

Fri, March 2, 9 | 8 p.m. | Planetarium​

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Guest Lecture: Shelley Bonus Neutron Stars, Colliding Black Holes, and Gravitational Waves

Guest lecturer Shelley Bonus will review the cuttingedge discoveries in the new field of gravitational wave astronomy, a field made possible by the first detection of gravity waves in 2015 by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO), which provides information about the universe not obtainable by any previous type of scientific tool. 

Fri, March 16 | 8 p.m. | Planetarium​

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​ ​​​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 23 | 8 p.m. | Planetarium

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Guest Lecture: Shelley Bonus What’s Your Zodiac Sign and Why? Astronomy/ Astrology Myths and Facts 

Guest lecturer Shelley Bonus will give her lively take on the relationship between astronomy and astrology, two 38 once-synonymous, but now-sundered ways of looking at the sky. Fri, March 30 | 8 p.m. | Planetarium Messier Marathon Observing Report Find out about French 18th-century comet hunter Messier’s list of nuisances, which became a catalog of the brightest galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae in the northern sky. Our planetarium director will also report on his efforts March 17 to complete a dusk-to-dawn “Messier Marathon” to view all 110 objects in a single session, possible only in March and April. 

Fri, April 6 | 8 p.m. | Planetarium 

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Special Observing Event: A Crescent Moon and Famous Double Star 

Come look at the 5-day-old crescent Moon, with its dramatically lit crater Theophilus. Then turn your gaze to the famous visual binary of Mizar and Alcor, the middle stars in the handle of the Big Dipper. Mizar was the first telescopic binary (double star) ever documented, in the early 17th century. We’ll begin in the planetarium, then head outside for viewing through telescopes with guidance from our planetarium director. Dress warmly! 

Fri, April 20 | 8 p.m. | Planetarium 

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Mars INSIGHT Mission Preview 

The Mars INSIGHT mission, scheduled to launch May 5 for a landing on the Red Planet November 26, carries a suite of instruments designed to probe the interior structure and heat flow characteristics of Mars. We’ll preview the mission, take a look at the status of Mars programs worldwide, and talk about the Mars 2020 rover mission in preparation now at JPL. 

Fri, April 27 | 8 p.m. | 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 sky site in July. 

Fri, May 4, 11 | 8 p.m. | Planetarium 

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Guest Lecture: Shelley Bonus NASA, ESA, and Private Investors Back to the Moon? 

Why, and What about Mars? The Moon is once more the near-term target for NASA, the European Space Agency, and private groups. Guest lecturer Shelley Bonus will explore these developments and how they relate to human prospects on Mars. 

Fri, May 18 | 8 p.m. | Planetarium 

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39 The Parker Solar Probe: Touching the Sun ​

Launching this summer and using the gravity of Venus, the Parker Solar Probe will gradually lower its orbit to within 4 million miles of the Solar photosphere, the apparent “surface” of the Sun. Understanding this region will help develop reliable forecasting for spaceweather events that directly impact technology and life on Earth. If all goes well, Parker will spend the next 7 years unlocking the secrets of this unexplored region, while also becoming the fastest-moving object ever created by humans. 

Fri, June 1, 29 | 8 p.m. | Planetarium 

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Guest Lecture: Shelley Bonus Jupiter & Europa: Myths and Science 

Guest Lecturer Shelley Bonus will provide updates on the newest findings from the Juno probe at Jupiter, and the status of the proposed Europa Clipper mission to investigate the habitability of the subsurface ocean of Jupiter’s icy moon. (By the way, Juno, the wife of Jupiter, was able to peer through clouds to reveal Jupiter’s true nature and actions. The two didn’t always get along. Find out why, in this celestial soap opera.) 

Fri, June 8 | 8 p.m. | Planetarium 

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Guest Lecture: Shelley Bonus Saturn Update! 

New Proposed Missions Guest lecturer Shelley Bonus presents the latest updates on Saturn and proposed missions to explore two of its moons. Surprised by the discovery of salty water plumes shooting from the ice-covered moon Enceladus, NASA is considering a new mission, “Enceladus Life Finder,” to sample and analyze the makeup of the plumes, which could include amino acids that might be a sign of life in that subsurface ocean. Another proposed mission, “Dragonfly,” would involve flying a probe like a nuclear quadcopter in the atmosphere of Saturn’s large moon Titan, surveying for possible life. 

Fri, June 15 | 8 p.m. | Planetarium 

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The Summer Solstice: Orbital Geometry and Cultural Celebrations 

This year’s Summer Solstice, marking the Sun’s northernmost position in the skies of Earth, falls on June 21. Astronomically, it is the first day of Northern Hemisphere summer. Culturally, it is marked with myriad traditional observances. Find out about the physical reasons for our planet’s seasons—and their longterm variations—as well as the bonfire-leaping, Maypoledancing, and love-declaring traditions of various cultures. 

Fri, June 22 | 8 p.m. | 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 40 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, July 6 | 8 p.m. | Planetarium 
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Human Spaceflight Update 

As the planned first flights of new American-crewed spacecraft approach, we will survey both the new “commercial” crew carriers from SpaceX and Boeing, and provide the latest details on flight schedules, which are likely to change between press time and this program. We will also cover the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle that NASA intends to use to send crews beyond low-Earth orbit in the early 2020s, Chinese space station activities, and the state of Russian space vehicle development. 

Fri, July 13 | 8 p.m. | Planetarium 
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Special Observing Event: The Moon on the Anniversary of Apollo 11, Jupiter, and Saturn! 

On the 49th anniversary of the first lunar landing, come look at the 8-day-old Moon and its Sea of Tranquility. Then take a look at Jupiter and its belts and moons, and at Saturn and its beautiful rings. We’ll begin in the planetarium, then head outside for viewing through telescopes w​ith guidance from our planetarium director. Dress warmly! 

Fri, July 20 | 8 p.m. | Planetarium 

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The Grand Canyon Star Party (GCSP) – a Volunteer’s Report 

One of the Southwest’s premier astronomy outreach events is the annual Grand Canyon Star Party, with simultaneous events held on the North and South Rims of the Canyon. Get a firsthand report from Jim Mahon, our planetarium director, who attended the 2018 North Rim Party, and will try to convey the magic of sharing a dark summer sky above the stunning geology of the Canyon with visitors from all over the planet. 

Fri, July 27 | 8pm | Planetarium 

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The Meteors of Summer: The Perseid Shower of August 2018 

Peaking on the night of August 12-13, this year’s Perseid meteor shower will enjoy a sky free of moonlight, so a trip away from city lights should be a rewarding one for those willing to stay up after midnight for the peak of activity. We’ll discuss the nature of these “falling stars,” and provide tips for getting the best views. (Hint: Besides getting away from the glare of city lights, bring a comfy lounge chair and a warm beverage, and invite along some good friends and/or family!) 

Fri, August 3, 10 | 8 p.m. | Planetarium