Friday Evening Public Shows
- 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!
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. Click here
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 unforeseen circumstances.
For more information contact the SMC Events Office at: (310) 434-3005 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Galaxies, Galaxies, Everywhere! Part One
April 14th , April 21st
The tale leading up to Edwin Hubble's determination in the 1920s that the "Spiral Nebulae" were star cities comparable to our own Milky Way is a sweeping epic of human curiosity and the struggle to tease information from observations at the very edge of the technical capability of the time. The study of other galaxies became a research hotbed, but first we had to recognize thier basic nature! This program was originally planned to cove the entire tale up to our current understanding, but it was neccessary to bite it off in two pieces. Part One this month will bring us up to 1925 and the realization of the nature of the nebulae as external galaxies.
Part Two will be presented in the Fall of this year and pick up the tale up to the present day, with all of the identification, cataloguing, and structural classificationinto various descriptions – Spiral, barred spiral, elliptical, irregular, peculiar - that has been done to sort galaxies out. Our information on these other major cosmic building blocks has expanded with our ability to detect different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, allowing us to "hear" the radio voices of galaxies, look deep into dark dust clouds and "see" gamma and X rays from the energetic cores of galaxies millions of light years away. Galaxies exist in associations known as clusters, and are distributed like the walls of soap bubbles across vast distances in the universe. We'll survey the current state of our knowledge and view beautiful images of these fascinating objects in Part Two. Your lecturer apologizes for this admittedly late change!
Summer Star Party Planner
April 28th, May 12th
Gatherings of amateur astronomers to observe the evening sky are called "star parties", and summertime presents good opportunities for beginners to attend these events without having to deal with winter's cold and travel hazards. From local urban and suburban locations to high, dark mountains and deserts and National Parks, 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 can even sign up for information on joining a group of amateur astronomers at a dark sky site in July.
Special Observing Event – Gibbous Moon and Jupiter in the eyepiece!
May 5th NOTE: Weather forecast is for conditions potentially damaging to telescope optics on the evening of May 5th - Clouds , high humidity, and minor chance of rain. We will NOT be able to set up telescopes, and the 8:00 PM program will be the indoor cloudy night alternate show decribed below.
With a 10 day old waxing gibbous moon in the sky, we'll start in the planetarium for a quick primer on our targets for the session, then head outside for viewing in a selection of telescopes. On the Moon we'll be highlighting the dramatic shadowing along the terminator, the transition from lunar night to day so prominent with the near side partly lit. Terraced craters like Copernicus and fault-wrinkled ancient basaltic lava plains will be clearly visible in the eyepiece. After examining our nearest celestial neighbor, we will look to the largest of all planets of the solar system, mighty Jupiter! If the air is steady, we should be able to easily see the main equatorial cloud bands and the four largest moons of Jupiter in our telescopes. If clouds intervene we will view images and discuss the Moon and Jupiter in the comfort of the planetarium. DRESS WARMLY!
May 12th – Summer Star Party Planner – see April 28th description
NASA Human Spaceflight Update
May 19th, June 2nd
Six years after the final flight of the Space Shuttle, the United States still lacks a domestic human space launch capability. Access to the International Space Station is solely via Russian Soyuz spacecraft, for which a hefty price is paid per seat. Two different commercial spacecraft are in development for ISS "taxi" duty, but funding has consistently fallen short of requests so schedules have slipped. Latest estimates have both the SpaceX and the Boeing crew capsules in danger of not going operational before the final contracted Soyuz flights in early 2019. Meanwhile, NASA's deep space exploration capsule, Orion, looks to a murky future with a change of administrations 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? A few months into the new administration we should have some sense of what is coming.
No public programs May 26th – Happy Memorial Day weekend!
Juno Science Update
June 9th , June 16th
The Juno Jupiter orbiter reached the giant planet in July of 2016, and close passes above the Jovian poles are already changing scientists internal models of the largest planet in the solar system. Science returns have been slowed by engine glitches that delayed dropping into a shorter orbit for more frequent science passes, which at press time are happening every 53 days, but 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!
Summer Deep Sky Wonders
June 23rd, July 7th
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 your self will round out the program.
No Public Programs June 30th
Last-Minute Planning for the August 21st North American Solar Eclipse
July 14th and July 21st
So, you want to view the August 21st total eclipse of the Sun but failed to plan a year in advance and can't find any hotel rooms or campgrounds? This program will trace out the path of totality and suggest possible strategies, as well as covering safe eclipse viewing. And, while a partial eclipse is not nearly as amazing as the spectacle of totality, for those who must remain in L.A., we will provide a description and timeline of the partial eclipse as it will appear locally. We will also discuss the next North American total eclipse of the Sun in 2024.
Cassini's Grand Finale at Saturn
July 28th and August 4th
The NASA 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, and enters its final stages with a destructive dive into the cloud tops of Saturn on September 15th. We will review the latest images of Saturn – from a risky vantage point between the rings and the planet - and the many discoveries made by Cassini as this epic mission moves into its final month.
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 aimed to directly support the eventual mounting of human missions to the Red Planet? We'll try to illuminate these and other questions!
No public programs August 18th, 25th, or September 1st