Planetarium Now

Our Special Observing Events rely on clear skies, and all of our programs are subject to change or cancellation. Please check this spot on the day of the show for any late changes and to make sure the weather is going to be cooperative for the observing events. Alternate shows will be announced if necessary.

Planetarium Shows for February 21st have been cancelled due to illness of our lecturer.  We regret any inconvenience!

Shows are held in the John Drescher Planetarium, located on SMC’s main campus in Drescher Hall Room 223. Friday night admission to a single Night Sky or feature show is $6 ($5 seniors age 60+ and children age 12 and under), or enjoy both the Night Sky Show and that evening’s feature show for the double-bill price of $11 ($9 seniors and children). Admission for Sunday matinees is $6 ($5 seniors age 60+ and children age 12 and under). Visit our website (smc.edu/planetarium) for more information.

All shows subject to change or cancellation without notice.


Night Sky Show

Our Digistar II planetarium projector recreates the celestial wonders of the ever-changing night sky — as you would see it far from city lights — in a short show updated weekly with the latest news in space exploration and astronomy. Bring the whole family to “tour” the constellations and ask questions about anything related to astronomy. The Night Sky Show costs $6 ($5 seniors age 60+ and children age 12 and under) and is presented on the following dates:

Fri, January 31 | 7 p.m.
Fri, February 7, 21, 28 | 7 p.m.
Fri, March 6, 13, 20, 27 | 7 p.m.
Sun, March 22 | 1 p.m.
Fri, April 3, 10, 17, 24 | 7 p.m.
Sun, April 26 | 1 p.m.
Fri, May 1, 8, 15, 29 | 7 p.m.
Fri, June 5, 12, 19, 26 | 7 p.m.
Fri, July 10, 17, 24, 31 | 7 p.m.
Fri, August 7, 14, 21 | 7 p.m.


Feature Shows & Guest Lectures

Planetarium Feature Shows and Guest Lectures are presented at 8 p.m. on Fridays when the Night Sky Show is scheduled, and at 1 p.m. Sundays when a special matinee is scheduled. Admission is $6 ($5 seniors age 60+ and children age 12 and under).


Backyard Observing – Binocular Highlights of the Winter Sky

Find out how to enjoy the Winter Hexagon and other highlights of the winters sky at a convenient hour by using binoculars and recognizing a few familiar bright stars. Learn how to get oriented in the skies of a Southern California, what the numbers printed on binoculars mean, and what some interesting targets are to show to your friends and neighbors. If weather permits, the planetarium director will make available some binoculars for a look outdoors. If you have binoculars, bring them along. Dress warmly!

Fri, January 31 | 8 p.m. | Planetarium
After the 7 p.m. Night Sky Show


Project Artemis: NASA’s Return to the Moon

The Trump administration announced a refocus of NASA crewed spaceflight on a return to lunar surface operations. The goal is to land on the Moon in 2024 using the third flight of the SLS/Orion system, now being called Artemis 3. A great deal of work must be done to accomplish this in a short time frame, the funding required may not materialize, and there are serious questions about the mission architecture and rationale. We will explore all of this and more, hopefully with some clarity as the NASA budget process moves forward. Note: We plan to revisit this subject during the spring semester.

Fri, February 7 | 8 p.m. | Planetarium
After the 7 p.m. Night Sky Show


2020 Space Exploration Preview

Find out about the coming year’s multiple missions setting out for Mars, the samples taken from asteroids, a new solar probe launch, the first lunar sample return mission since the 1970s, and the first crewed flights of two American commercial crew taxis for the International Space Station.

Fri, February 21, 28 | 8 p.m. | Planetarium
After the 7 p.m. Night Sky Show

Planetarium Shows for February 21st have been cancelled due to illness of our lecturer.  We regret any inconvenience!


Special Observing Event: A Gibbous Moon, the Pleiades, and (maybe) a Very Red Star!

Have a look at a 12-day-old gibbous Moon, targeting Mare Imbrium — the biggest obvious impact basin on the nearside — as well as the craters Copernicus and Plato. Then enjoy wide field views of the Pleiades (Seven Sisters) star cluster, and, depending on sky conditions, view R Leporis, better known as Hind’s Crimson Star, a pulsating red giant about 850 light years away, and one of the deepest red color stars in the sky. If clouds interfere, we’ll view beautiful images in the planetarium. Dress warmly!

Fri, March 6 | 8 p.m. | Planetarium
After the 7 p.m. Night Sky Show


Project Artemis: NASA’s Return to the Moon

The Trump administration announced a refocus of NASA crewed spaceflight on a return to lunar surface operations. The goal is to land on the Moon in 2024 using the third flight of the SLS/Orion system, now being called Artemis 3. A great deal of work must be done to accomplish this in a short time frame, the funding required may not materialize, and there are serious questions about the mission architecture and rationale. We will explore all of this and more, hopefully with some clarity as the NASA budget process moves forward.

Fri, March 13 | 8 p.m. | Planetarium
After the 7 p.m. Night Sky Show


TILT! Equinoxes and Solstices Explained

As we move through the Vernal Equinox on March 20, most of us are only vaguely aware of what the equinoxes and solstices actually are. Using our Digistar planetarium projector and other imagery, we’ll try to remedy this disconnect from the natural world, which makes most modern humans vastly less aware of the rhythms of the sky than our ancestors were. We’ll also try to dispel some myths, like that egg-standing-on-end story….

Fri, March 20 | 8 p.m. | Planetarium
After the 7 p.m. Night Sky Show
Special Matinee: Sun, March 22 | 1 p.m. | Planetarium


Charles Messier and the Faint Fuzzies

Guest Lecture: Sarah Vincent

French 18th-century comet hunter Messier would be an obscure figure in modern astronomy had he not compiled a list of things he was not looking for in his telescopes. His nuisance list of fuzzy, nonmoving, cometlike objects became his chief historical claim to fame: a remarkable list of the brightest galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae in the northern sky. Our guest lecturer Sarah Vincent will share images and discuss these objects and their locations.

Fri, March 27, April 3 | 8 p.m. | Planetarium
After the 7 p.m. Night Sky Show


50-Year Retrospective: The Flights of Apollo - The Magnificent Failure of Apollo 13

Take a look at what is now probably the second most famous Apollo mission — the harrowing voyage of Apollo 13. When crew members Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise were almost lost due to an explosion in an oxygen tank aboard their Command ship, the famous lunar module “lifeboat scenario” became a chilling reality. Still, even without the cinematic exaggerations, this really was the finest hour for NASA-of-Apollo!

Fri, April 10, 17 | 8 p.m. | Planetarium
After the 7 p.m. Night Sky Show

Summer Star Party Planner

Gatherings of amateur astronomers to observe the evening sky are called “star parties,” and summer 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, 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 will even have a chance to join a notification list for a public meetup this summer in a National Forest observing area.

Fri, April 24 | 8 p.m. | Planetarium
After the 7 p.m. Night Sky Show
Special Matinee: Sun, April 26 | 1 p.m. | Planetarium


Special Observing Event: Gibbous Moon, Venus, and the Spring Sky

Take a look through various telescopes at a blazing-bright Venus showing a crescent phase in the eyepiece, and dawn on the terraced walls of lunar crater Copernicus. Also check out the famous double stars Mizar and Alcor high in the northeast in the handle of the Big Dipper, and sample other targets as the sky allows. If clouds interfere, we’ll view wonderful images in the planetarium. Dress warmly!

Fri, May 1 | 8 p.m. | Planetarium
After the 7 p.m. Night Sky Show


Stellar Navigation to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse!

Guest Lecture: Sarah Vincent

When the power grid fails, when society crumbles, when you are running for your life, what do you do? You look to the stars. Find out how, on a starry night, you can figure out where you are just by using the clues above us. Our guest lecturer Sarah Vincent will guide you through the perils with a steady hand and the stars in her eyes.

Fri, May 8, 15 | 8 p.m. | Planetarium
After the 7 p.m. Night Sky Show


Summer Deep Sky Wonders

Guest Lecture: Sarah Vincent

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, 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 (DSOs) and discuss what they seem to be telling us about our universe. Our guest lecturer Sarah Vincent will also offer tips on where to go to view these beauties.

Fri, May 29, June 5 | 8 p.m. | Planetarium
After the 7 p.m. Night Sky Show


Mars Exploration Update

Guest Lecture: Sarah Vincent

As the 2020 Mars launch window looms this July, our most earthlike planetary neighbor plays host to eight active spacecraft on its surface and in orbit, with more new arrivals expected in the near future. Before the next wave of arrivals go through their suspense-filled critical phases, our guest lecturer Sarah Vincent will bring you up to date on the probes already at work and some of their key findings.

Fri, June 12 | 8 p.m. | Planetarium
After the 7 p.m. Night Sky Show


Mars 2020 Rover, Huoxing 1, the Hope Probe, and ExoMars

Guest Lecture: Sarah Vincent

NASA, China, the United Arab Emirates, and the European Space Agency are launching the next round of probes for Mars. Explore the mission launch windows, their journeys to the Red Planet, and their projected landing sites. Guest lecturer Sarah Vincent will also cover the instruments these roving and stationary laboratories carry on board.

Fri, June 19, 26 | 8 p.m. | Planetarium
After the 7 p.m. Night Sky Show


NASA Human Spaceflight Update

By the date of this program, NASA hopes to have flown crewed tests on both of the commercial crew vehicles for transport to the International Space Station. Find out about the latest news on the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle that is slowly moving toward test flights in 2021, human return to the vicinity of the Moon to assemble the Lunar Gateway, and other public and private efforts, some of which could potentially render some of NASA’s plans moot.

Fri, July 10, 17 | 8 p.m. | Planetarium
After the 7 p.m. Night Sky Show


The Meteors of Summer: The Perseid Shower of August 2020

Peaking on August 12, this year’s Perseid meteor shower will have some interference from a late-rising crescent Moon, but a trip away from city lights should still be a rewarding one for those willing to stay up after midnight for the peak of activity. We’ll discuss the nature of these “falling stars” and provide tips for getting the best views.

Fri, July 24, 31 | 8 p.m. | Planetarium
After the 7 p.m. Night Sky Show


50-Year Retrospective: The Flights of Apollo - After Apollo 13 – What Changed?

After the return of Apollo 13 from its nearly-fatal mission, NASA faced the possibility of halting lunar missions if the causes and fixes for the actual accident were not quickly determined, with solutions put in place to give future missions greater safety margins. All this, at a time when NASAs budget started to shrink, had far-reaching effects on the number and types of lunar missions NASA was ultimately able to fly as Apollo came to an end in late 1972.

Fri, August 7, 14 | 8 p.m. | Planetarium
After the 7 p.m. Night Sky Show


Special Observing Event: A Slender Crescent Moon, Jupiter, and Saturn

Take a look at the rapidly-setting 3-day-old crescent Moon, then feast your eyes on the beautiful gas giants Jupiter and Saturn. If the air is clear and steady, you will easily observe Jupiter’s cloud belts and larger moons, as well as Saturn’s stunning rings, several moons, and the planet’s shadow falling on the back side of the rings. If clouds interfere, we’ll view beautiful images in the planetarium. Dress warmly!

Fri, August 21 | 8 p.m. | Planetarium
After the 7 p.m. Night Sky Show