At 7 p.m.
– The Night Sky Show: this 50 minute presentation is an interactive weekly update on the night sky, with the latest news in space exploration and astronomy and a chance to ask any question about astronomy. We use our Digistar II planetarium projector to recreate the night sky with all of its celestial wonders!
At 8 p.m. – Feature Show: feature shows and guest lectures on a variety of astronomical topics. Special observing events in which opportunities are given to look through telescopes and other astronomical instruments are also offered from time to time.
Special Note: We LOVE small children - but children under 6 years normally do not make it through a complete indoor planetarium program without exceeding their attention spans. For this reason, we recommend that children of this age be brought ONLY to the occasional 8:00 pm "Special Observing" events, which are more hands-on since we go outside to observe in telescopes.
If you bring very young children to other programs, they will be admitted free of charge - because much of the time the presenter is forced to ask the parents to take them out of the planetarium when they begin to get restless and talkative. Please consider this before bringing very young children to our regular shows. We do happily arrange for preschool age group programs under the rules of our school shows. When the entire group is of this age, the content is adjusted, and the other audience members are not expecting a quiet environment!
Tickets may be purchased at the door (CASH ONLY) on the evening of the show 20 minutes prior to showtime, or in person at the SMC Theatre Arts Box Office (Theatre Arts Complex, SMC Main Campus; 8 a.m. to 12 noon Mon-Wed). Shows (except selected guest lectures) are held in the John Drescher Planetarium, located on SMC’s Main Campus in Drescher Hall Room 223.
Directions to the Planetarium.
Admission to a single show or lecture is $6 ($5 for seniors age 60+ and children age 12 and under). For the double-bill price of $11 ($9 seniors and children), you can enjoy both the Night Sky Show and the evening’s scheduled Feature Show or Guest Lecture.
Feature Show Schedule
Please Note: All 8 p.m. feature programs are preceded by the 7 p.m. “Night Sky” program described above. If you wish to see the constellations and sky motions, you want the 7 p.m. Night Sky show. All programs are subject to change in the event of an emergency or other unforeseen circumstances.
For more information contact the SMC Events Office at: (310) 434-3005 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
No public programs May 25th – Happy Memorial Day weekend!
The Parker Solar Probe: Touching the Sun
The June 1st public planetarium programs have been cancelled due to illness. Note that the Parker Solar Probe program will be presented on June 29th.
June 1st and 29th
Launching this summer, the Parker Solar Probe will follow a careful path using the gravity of Venus to gradually lower its orbit to within 4 million miles of the Solar photosphere, what we view as the apparent "surface" of the Sun. This is 8 times closer than any previous spacecraft, and will place the probe well inside the solar corona, the region where critical processes of space-weather happen. Understanding of this region is basic to developing reliable forecasting of space-weather events that directly impact life on Earth. Solar events can bring power grids down and damage the communication infrastructure of the entire Earth – effects our technology-dependent civilization can ill afford. If all goes well, Parker will spend the next 7 years unlocking the secrets of this unexplored region, along the way becoming the fastest-moving object ever created by humans.
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 was the wife of Jupiter, who was able to peer through clouds to reveal Jupiter's true nature and actions. Jupiter and Juno didn't always get along – find out why, in this celestial soap opera.)
Saturn Update! – New Proposed Missions
Saturn is without doubt the Jewel of the Solar System and the discovery of salty water plumes shooting from the ice-covered moon Enceladus was a stunning surprise. NASA is considering a new mission called "Enceladus Life Finder" to sample the plumes and do detailed analysis of their makeup, including the possibility of amino acids – possibly a sign of life in that subsurface ocean. Another proposal is a mission to the large moon Titan, called "Dragonfly", which would involve a sort of nuclear quadcopter flying in Titan's atmosphere surveying for possible life! Guest lecturer Shelley Bonus will bring you up to speed.
The Summer Solstice: Orbital Geometry and Cultural Celebrations
This year the Summer Solstice, marking the Sun's northernmost position in the skies of Earth, falls on June 21st. Astronomically, it is considered the first day of northern hemisphere summer. Culturally, it is marked with a myriad of traditional observances. Whether it is called Midsummer, St. John's Day, Enyovden, Sanziene, or one of many other names, summer solstice celebrations are an integral part of many cultures. We will survey the bonfire-leaping, maypole-dancing, wheel-turning, and love-declaring traditions of multiple cultures in addition to looking at the physical seasons for our planet's seasons – and their long-term variations.
The Parker Solar Probe: Touching the Sun
June 29th – (See June 1st)
Summer Deep Sky Wonders
The summer sky offers numerous gems to the observer, many of them far beyond our solar system – the realm of "Deep Sky Objects", or DSOs. 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 and 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 and discuss what they seem to be telling us about our universe. Tips for where to go to view these beauties for yourself will round out the program.
Human Spaceflight Update
As the planned first flights of new American crewed spacecraft loom, we will survey both the new "commercial" crew carriers from SpaceX and Boeing and provide 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 NASA intends to use to send crews beyond low Earth orbit in the early 2020s, Chinese space station activities, and the state of Russian vehicle development.
Special Observing Event: The Moon on the Anniversary of Apollo 11, Jupiter, and Saturn!
On the 49th anniversary of the first lunar landing, we'll start in the planetarium with a quick primer on our targets, then head outside to view the 8-day-old Moon and Saturn in telescopes. The Sea of Tranquility will be nicely lit, and Jupiter's belts and moons and Saturn's beautiful rings will be easily seen. If clouds interfere, we will view images of these targets and discuss Apollo 11 in the planetarium. Dress warmly!
The Grand Canyon Star Party – a Volunteer's Report
One of the premier astronomy outreach events in the western states is the annual Grand Canyon Star Party. Amateur astronomers from all over the USA volunteer to serve as Park Service outreach educators, bringing a wide variety of telescopes and personal styles to one of the most spectacular settings on Earth. Simultaneous events are held on both the North and South Rims of the Canyon. After getting hooked on the GCSP 20 years ago, SMC lecturer Jim Mahon has been back more than a dozen times. He will present images and stories from the 2018 North Rim Party, and 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.
The Meteors of Summer: The Perseid Shower of August 2018
August 3rd and 10th
Peaking on the night of August 12th/13th, this year's Perseid meteor shower will enjoy a dark 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: Get away from the glare of city lights, bring a comfy lounge chair and a warm beverage, and some good friends and/or family!)
No programs August 17th, 24th, or 31st. Fall programs begin on September 7th