The Santa Monica College John Drescher Planetarium presents its Fall 2013 and Winter 2014 schedule of shows and special telescope-viewing sessions. The lineup is:
• “Autumn Deep Sky Wonders” on Sept. 20. Explore the “Summer Triangle” of brilliant stars, an area rich in star clusters, planetary nebulae, and even a bright supernova remnant. Includes tips on where to view these beauties in the eyepiece, even if you don’t own a telescope.
• “Special Observing Event: The Moon’s ‘Straight Wall’ (and More) in the Eyepiece” on Sept. 13. With guidance from amateur astronomers, take a look at the Moon’s Rupes Recta (Straight Wall), along with a multicolored double star and some of the brighter objects in the deep sky. If clouds intervene, the program will stay in the Planetarium with high-resolution images.
• “Mars Exploration Update” on Sept. 27 and Oct. 4. Get a news update on the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity and other craft, and a preview of the MAVEN orbiter to study the Martian atmosphere.
• “Special Observing Event: First Quarter Moon and Ice Giants in the Eyepiece!” on Oct. 11. Observe the dramatic shadowing along the Moon’s terminator (the transition from lunar night to day) and terraced craters through a variety of telescopes, and maybe even take a peek at Uranus and Neptune, two planets most people have never seen! If clouds intervene, the program will stay in the Planetarium with high-resolution images.
• “Human Space Flight in Transition” on Oct. 18 and 25. With human space flight in profound flux, come look at the players in this drama and evaluate their chances of success and survival.
• “Holiday Telescope Buyer Survival Guide” on Nov. 1. Considering a telescope as a holiday gift for someone newly star-struck? Come find out how to shop for a telescope – and in time to do it BEFORE the good suppliers sell out of the best starter instruments!
• “Comet ISON: Possibly Spectacular, Possibly Not!” on Nov. 8 and 15. Get the latest predictions on the behavior of Comet ISON – a potentially spectacular sight in early December – and pick up tips on viewing this icy visitor.
• “The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST): NASA’s Next Big Thing” on Nov. 22. Take a close look at NASA’s successor to the Hubble Space Telescope – the James Webb Space Telescope – and the efforts to keep the program moving toward a hoped-for 2018 launch.
• “A Winter’s Solstice” on Dec. 6 and 13. Find out about the history of ancient observances of the Winter Solstice, and take a look at a re-creation of the remarkable planetary conjunction in 2 BCE – a leading candidate for a scientific explanation of the Star of Bethlehem!
• “Starbirth in Orion’s Sword” on Jan. 10 and 17. Explore this Great Orion Nebula and learn about recent discoveries that reveal the hundreds of potential planetary systems forming within!
• “Special Observing Event: Orion and the Winter Hexagon – with a Special Guest!” on Jan. 24. Come view the winter sky, including the bounty of bright stars surrounding its signature constellation, Orion the Hunter – and as a special guest, Jupiter! – through a variety of telescopes, with guidance from amateur astronomer volunteers. If clouds intervene, the program will stay in the Planetarium with high-resolution images.
• “Cataloguing the Sky” on Jan. 31 and Feb. 7. Demystify what those arcane object designations like M31, NGC 4565, and SAO 150058 mean as you trace the development of some of the best-known astronomical catalogs.
The feature shows are at 8 pm and are preceded by “The Night Sky Show” at 7 pm, offering the latest news in astronomy and space exploration, a family-friendly “tour” of the constellations, and the chance to ask astronomy-related questions.
The John Drescher Planetarium, which features the Digistar projection system, is located near the elevators on the second floor of Drescher Hall at 1900 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica.
Tickets are available at the door and cost $6 ($5 seniors age 60-plus and children age 12 and under) for a single show or telescope-viewing session, or $11 ($9 seniors and children) for the evening’s scheduled “double bill.”
All shows subject to change or cancellation without notice.