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Planetarium at Santa Monica College Continues Gemini Series on Final Frontier

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By Hector Gonzalez
Special to The Lookout

February 22, 2016 -- With more people looking skyward these days since last year's “The Martian,” Santa Monica College's John Drescher Planetarium's continuing retrospective on the 50-year anniversary of the Gemini missions offers plenty to satisfy new and veteran skywatchers alike.

Special events in March will look at the Gemini 8 mission, the sketchy relationship between astrology and astronomy, and a guided telescopic tour of Jupiter and its moons.

Exploring America's baby steps into space, “Gemini 8: First Docking in Space, First Close Call for NASA,” a lecture and presentation on Friday, March 4, will delve into the world's first docking of two space vehicles and a spacewalk by future moonwalker Dave Scott.

Sandwiched between the Mercury and Apollo programs, the Gemini missions paved the way for the June 1969 moon. Like all the manned Gemini missions, Gemini 8 carried a two-man crew, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Scott, according to NASA's website.

On Friday, March 11, guest lecturer and astronomical historian Shelly R. Bonus will present, “What Sign Are You? Pisces, Aries, Scorpio...or Ophiuchus? The Difference Between Astronomy and Astrology.”

An award-winning performer, writer, and photographer who has worked with both Lily Tomlin and Melvin Van Peebles, Bonus teaches astronomy for the ULCA Extension Program. Popular among audiences for her enthusiasm and sense of humor, Bonus is known for her unique ability to make the mysteries of the night sky come alive, according

At a special observing event on Friday, March 18, the planetarium's director will assists guests in viewing the gibbous moon and the planet Jupiter and all four of its moons, using the planetarium's variety of telescopes. A gibbous moon is when the Moon is more than half full, but not quite fully illuminated, when viewed from the perspective of Earth.

March events conclude Friday, March 25, with “Charles Messier and the Faint Fuzzies,” a presentation about the life of 18th century French comet hunter Charles Messier. It was Messier's list of nuisances that became a catalog of the brightest objects in the northern sky.

Also that evening, the planetarium's director will report on his “Messier Marathon.” Invented by astronomers in the 1970s, a Messier Marathon is an attempt to finds as many Messier objects as possible in one night.

All of the planetarium's presentations in March begin at 8 p.m. The lectures are always preceded by a night sky show at 7 p.m., which provides guests with the latest space and astronomy news, a “tour” through the constellations with the planetarium's Digistar projection system, and a question-and-answer session with a professional astronomer.

Available at the door, tickets for both the night sky show and presentation are $11, or $9 for students and seniors. Single-event tickets are $6, or $5 for seniors 60 and older and children 12 and younger.

For more information, call 310-434-3005, or visit

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