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SMC John Drescher Planetarium Starts Exploration of Autumn Night Skies with New Schedule
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Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica


By Lookout Staff

August 17, 2016 -- Follow autumn by watching the night skies as Santa Monica College’s John Drescher Planetarium begins exploring the season next month, first peering up into rings of Saturn and later winding along the mysterious canyon on the near side of the Moon known as “Schroter’s Valley.”

The Planetarium’s new schedule for fall 2016 will include eclipses, solstices and a variety of deep sky features in special programs and telescope-viewing sessions, said Grace Smith, a SMC spokesperson.

All feature shows are at 8 p.m. and preceded by “The Night Sky Show” at 7 p.m., which will offer the latest news in astronomy and space exploration, a family-friendly “tour” of the constellations, and question-and-answer sessions with experts.

First in the fall lineup is a look at rings of Saturn, the Moon’s Apennines and Alps along the eastern margins of Mare Imbrium, she said.

The event is September 9 and will also cover the multi-colored double star Albireo, the “head” of Cygnus the Swan. If clouds intervene, the program will stay in the planetarium with high-resolution images, Smith said.

On September 16, the Planetarium looks back by focusing on the “Summer Triangle,” rich in star clusters, planetary nebulae, and a supernova remnant. Smith said visitors can also pick up early tips on viewing the clusters in the eyepiece, and sign up to join amateur astronomers at a star party on September 24.

Also in the lineup:

On September 23, the Planetarium will offer “Gemini 11 – Fast Rendezvous, Altitude Record, and More EVA Issues – 50-Year Retrospective.” The program continues its 50th anniversary celebration of the under-appreciated Project Gemini with a look at the second-to-last mission.

Smith noted that Pete Conrad and Dick Gordon set an Earth orbit human altitude record of 739 miles (which still stands), but, like previous crews, found spacewalks problematic in the Gemini suit.

On September 30, guest lecturer Shelley R. Bonus presents “What Will NASA Explore Next?” Bonus will look at early results from Juno’s first science pass in late August 2016 over Jupiter’s polar regions, and explore questions like: Will we be sending a probe to Europa by 2022?

On October 7, the Planetarium offers a “Special Observing Event: Six-Day-Old Moon, the Ring Nebula, and a Pretty Double Star!” Participants take a close look at the Moon’s Copernicus crater, the area around crater Aristarchus, and the winding canyon known as “Schroter’s Valley.” The Ring Nebula will also be viewed, and evening finishes up with a view of the double star Albireo.

On October 14 and October 21, “OSIRIS-REx: The Asteroid Sample Return Mission” is offered. Smith said that next month, the OSIRIS-REx mission is scheduled to set out on a two-year voyage to collect and return with samples from asteroid Bennu, which has an orbit that carries it relatively close to Earth every 6 years. Scientists say Bennu is a potentially hazardous object posing a moderate threat of an Earth impact in the next 200 years.

On October 28, the Planetarium discusses the first total eclipse since 1979 in the continental US with “The Total Eclipse of August 21, 2017.”

“With the solar corona plainly visible overhead, a total eclipse is one of those “Must See” experiences,” Smith said.

On November 4, the Planetarium is offering the “Holiday Telescope Buyer Survival Guide.” It gives tips on how to shop for a telescope as the holiday season approaches.

On November 18, the Planetarium offers a 50-year retrospective on Gemini 12. It wraps up with the 1966 flight by Jim Lovell and Buzz Aldrin, a successful mission highlighted by Aldrin’s 3 EVAs. The evening ends with a summary of the rapid progress in human spaceflight NASA made during this pivotal program en route to the Moon.

On December 2, a “Juno Progress Report” is offered. The Juno mission will be roughly 20 percent through its active science portion by early December. Experts think it possible that all the images the mission can acquire will have been captured by this point, since the Junocam is not expected to outlast the severe radiation of its environment.

On December 9 and December 16 comes “A Winter’s Solstice.” The programs involve learning the history of ancient observances of the Winter Solstice, and a look at a re-creation of the planetary conjunction in 2 BCE – a leading candidate for a scientific explanation of the Star of Bethlehem.

The John Drescher Planetarium is located near the elevators on the second floor of Drescher Hall, 1900 Pico Boulevard.

Tickets are available at the door and cost $11 (or $9 seniors and children) for the evening’s scheduled “double bill,” or $6 ($5 seniors ages of 60 or older and children ages 12 and under) for a single Night Sky or feature show or telescope-viewing session.

More information is available by calling (310) 434-3005 or at or

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