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.
NOTE: We have changed the programs on September 29th and October 6th to better serve the local community.
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!
Hail and Farewell Cassini!
With this Friday coinciding with the date that the Cassini spacecraft is scheduled to end its long mission with a destructive dive into the atmosphere of Saturn, we'll celebrate the bittersweet end of an epic voyage of exploration just hours after the event. We will review the latest (and last) Cassini images of Saturn – from a risky vantage point between the rings and the planet - and the many discoveries made by Cassini on the day that this magnificent mission ends.
Solar Eclipse Observing Report
September 22nd and October 6th
NOTE: We have changed the second date for this program to better serve our community.
With the North American Total Eclipse of August 21st now a memory, your lecturer will relate his experiences and share images from the event (assuming weather favored his location that day!). A collection of videos and stills from the eclipse as it moved across the Lower 48 will be compiled and shared, and we will discuss why you should circle April 8, 2024 on your calendar if you regret missing the eclipse last August!
OSIRIS-REx – Earth Encounter and on to Bennu!
September 29thth and October 13th
NOTE: We have changed the first date for this program to better serve our community.
The OSIRIS-REx mission should left Earth on a two year voyage to asteroid Bennu in September 2016. On September 22nd 2017, the spacecraft will perform a gravity assist during a flyby of Earth, flinging it into a more-inclined orbit to match Bennu. We should have a few flyby images in hand in these weeks following the Earth encounter and will share these and discuss the mission as OSIRIS-Rex heads for rendezvous with Bennu next summer. 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 from this interesting target.
Apollo 4: When the Power Met the Dream
October 20th and November 3rd
Fifty years ago, in November 1967, less than 10 months after the loss of the Apollo One crew in a fire on the launch pad, the Apollo program symbolically rose from the ashes with the first test launch of the enormous Saturn V booster built for the trips to the Moon. The sheer size and power of the Saturn V still staggers half a century later – twice the height of the Space Shuttle, capable of hurling 50 tons of Apollo spacecraft to the Moon just six years after NASA struggled to place a 1.5 ton Mercury spacecraft into Earth orbit. This first unmanned test was covered live on American television, and we'll show some of the original coverage of this pivotal, triumphant day.
Special Observing Event – First Quarter Moon, the Ring Nebula, and a pretty double star!
We'll begin our observing events for the Fall with a look at the first quarter Moon and two of the delights of the early autumn sky! Starting in the planetarium as twilight slowly deepens, we will discuss and view images of our target areas, then head outside to view the Moon, targeting the Seas of Tranquility and Serenity, the locations of the first and last human lunar landings. As we move into full darkness, we'll finish up with a view of the Ring Nebula and the pretty multicolored double star Albireo, the "head" of Cygnus the Swan, almost directly overhead. If clouds intervene we will view beautiful images of our targets in the planetarium. Dress warmly!
November 3rd – See "Apollo 4" program listed above
No Programs November 10th – Happy Veteran's Day (Campus closed)
Holiday Telescope Buyer Survival Guide
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 shows November 24th – Campus closed - Happy Thanksgiving!
Special Observing Event – Schroter's Valley on the Moon and the Seven Sisters
After a quick intro in the planetarium, we will head outside to view a nearly-full Moon in telescopes. At this phase the bright crater Aristarchus and the nearby meandering rille, Schroter's Valley, is well placed and lit for observing. We will also enjoy wide field views of the beautiful Pleiades star cluster, the Seven Sisters of Greek lore, one of the prettiest open clusters in the sky and a harbinger of approaching winter! If clouds intervene we will view beautiful images of our targets in the planetarium. Dress warmly!
A Winter's Solstice
December 8th and 15th
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 22nd or 29th – Happy Holidays!
NASA Commercial Crew Takes Flight
January 5th and 26th
After a challenging development phase that saw annual funding shortfalls vs requests, NASA's two Commercial Crew providers are poised for the first test flights of the first US crewed spacecraft since the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011. Both capsules are intended for initial use as crew "taxis" to the International Space Station, freeing NASA from exclusive dependence on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to carry crews to and from the station and serve in lifeboat roles. With the SpaceX Dragon 2 and the Boeing Starliner moving toward first flight tests in calendar 2018, we will review and discuss this dawning new era in US spaceflight.
Starbirth in Orion's Sword
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 19th targeting Orion!
Special Observing Event: Orion, the Seven Sisters, and the Winter Hexagon!
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!
NASA Commercial Crew Takes Flight
See description for January 5th.
The TESS Mission: Exoplanet Targets for Webb
Currently slotted into a March, 2018 launch date, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) will fly to a novel orbit in a 2:1 gravitational resonance with the Moon, and search the near-solar neighborhood of over 200,000 stars for planets crossing between TESS and the parent star – "transiting" the parent stars' disks as viewed from the vicinity of Earth. These stars will be closer, and brighter, than the more distant stars the Kepler mission targeted in its exoplanet searches, and thus it will be possible to obtain more information on any planets discovered with the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope. JWST is looking at a Fall 2018 launch. TESS aims to set the table!
No shows February 10th – Campus closed!