Skip to main content
Navigate Up
Sign In
Santa Monica College|Academic Programs|Planetarium|public_shows

Friday Evening Public Shows
Show Times
  • At 7 PM - 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 PM – 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 95% of the time I am 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! 

Ticket Prices

Tickets may be purchased at the door 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. Click here for directions.

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 8:00 PM feature programs are preceded by the 7 PM “Night Sky” program described above. If you wish to see the constellations and sky motions, you want the 7:00 PM Night Sky show.  All programs are subject to change in the event of an emergency or other unforseen circumstances.

For more information contact the SMC Events Office at: (310) 434-3005 or email:

No programs August 19th or 26th.

Our first Friday evening program of the Fall Session will be on September 9th

​​Fall Session 2016



CHECK THIS SPACE FOR UPDATES MOVING FORWARD. We anticipate having our Digistar 2 star projector back on line in late October/early November.



OSIRIS-REx: The Asteroid Sample Return Mission

October 14th and 21st 

The OSIRIS-REx mission should set out on a 2 year voyage to asteroid Bennu in September.  Bennu is a primitive carbonaceous asteroid, which has an orbit that carries it relatively close to Earth every 6 years, and is a potentially hazardous object with moderate threat of an Earth impact in the next 200 years. OSIRIS-REx aims to characterize and return samples form this interesting target  We will look at how this New Frontiers-class mission intends to accomplish these objectives and discuss Potentially Hazardous Asteroids along the way.



The Total Eclipse of August 21st 2017

October 28th

The first total solar eclipse to occur in the continental USA since 1979 is coming this summer!  Making landfall on the Oregon coast, the path of totality curves over 14 states, transiting the entire breadth of the lower 48 before leaving us on the South Carolina coastline.  While all of the lower 48 will experience a partial eclipse, a partial eclipse is in no way as spectacular as the magical strangeness of totality, with the solar corona plainly visible overhead. A total eclipse is one of those “Must See” experiences for anyone with even a passing interest in the natural world.  We will review what an eclipse actually is, the path of the eclipse, and discuss viewing safety and weather conditions. 



Holiday Telescope Buyer Survival Guide

November 4th

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 starter instruments!   



No Programs November 11th – SMC Campus closed - Happy Veteran’s Day!



Gemini 12: “The End” – EVA Mastered At Last!

November 18th

We wrap up our 50th anniversary retrospective on project Gemini with a look at the final flight of the series, Gemini 12, flown in November of 1966. Jim Lovell and Buzz Aldrin put all the lessons of the earlier flights to good use, and flew a successful mission highlighted by 3 nominal EVAs by Aldrin, the first spacewalker to benefit from the use of underwater “neutral buoyancy” training.  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.  We will conclude with a summary of the rapid progress in human spaceflight competency NASA made in this pivotal program en route to the Moon.


No shows November 25th – Happy Thanksgiving!



Juno Progress Report

December 2nd

With Juno safely in orbit around Jupiter at press time, we will be roughly 20% through the active science portion of the mission by early December.  It is 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. We will review early science and imaging results of this fascinating mission.



A Winter’s Solstice

December 9th and 16th

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.



No programs December  23rd or 30th   – Happy Holidays!​

Winter Session

Special Observing Event: A 9 Day Old Moon and Winter Clusters! 

January 6th 

We’ll start our 2017 Observing calendar with a look at a 9 day old waxing gibbous Moon as our featured target.  After a brief discussion in the planetarium we will head outside to the telescopes.  We’ll have good lighting on the lunar Apennines and Alps, the Alpine Valley, and Rupes Recta, the “Straight Wall”.  With low power scopes, we’ll frame the entire beautiful jewel box of M45, the Pleiades star cluster, and may also have a look at some other pretty winter star clusters. If clouds interfere, we’ll view spectacular images of our targets in the planetarium.  Dress warmly!  

A Failure of Imagination – The Tragedy of Apollo 1

January 13th 

Just two months after the triumphant finale of the Gemini program, NASA and the world were 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 matter of seconds in an oxygen-accelerated fire during a ground test of their spacecraft atop its Saturn IB booster.  The fire, the following investigation, and the devastating findings that resulted, might have stopped the lunar program in its tracks fifty years ago this month.  We will examine the accident and some of the surprising ways in which fixes that resulted probably wound up saving at least one Apollo crew’s lives in space. 

Starbirth in Orion’s Sword

January 20th 

For millenia humans have gazed at the great winter figure we call Orion and seen a heroic human figure.  For the Greeks it was a hunter with his faithful dogs at his heels.  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 the 27th targeting Orion!

Special Observing Event: Orion, the Seven Sisters, and the Winter Hexagon!

January 27th 

With the Moon’s glare absent this week, we’ll 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 closest large area of star formation to the solar system. We’ll begin in the planetarium and then head outside for viewing through telescopes.  Among the stars around Orion we will find the lovely Pleiades Cluster.  If clouds interfere, we’ll view spectacular images of the nebula, and surrounding skies.  Dress warmly!

Go at Throttleup – The Loss of Challenger

February 3rd 

January has been a cruel month for American crewed spaceflight.   This last month marks the  31st  anniversary of the loss of space shuttle Challenger and her seven person crew.  The institutional lessons of Challenger, as brought to light in the subsequent investigation, were sadly forgotten in your lecturer’s opinion, as similar organizational issues reared their heads again in February of 2003 with the loss of shuttle Columbia.  Space flight is difficult and inherently risky, but the greatest dangers seem to originate not in the energies and velocities involved, but rather in human factors issues apparently endemic to large hierarchical organizations.   

No shows February 10th – Campus closed!