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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 Planetarium website 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, December 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).


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. Dress warmly!

Fri, January 6 | 8pm | Planetarium


A Failure of Imagination – The Tragedy of Apollo 1

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


Birth 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 Hexagon!

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


Go at Throttle Up – 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