Santa Monica Lookout
Santa Monica Offers Great Chance to View the Stars
By Lookout Staff
September 10, 2013 -- From starry summer skies to the Winter Solstice, plenty of cosmic wonders will be on display for live viewing over the next five months at the Santa Monica College John Drescher Planetarium.
The Planetarium’s Fall 2013 and Winter 2014 schedule of shows and special telescope-viewing sessions kicked off last Friday with “Autumn Deep Sky Wonders,” which will be repeated September 20.
The viewing explores the “Summer Triangle” of brilliant stars, “an area rich in star clusters, planetary nebulae, and even a bright supernova remnant,” planetarium officials said. The viewing includes tips on where to view these “beauties in the eyepiece, even if you don’t own a telescope.”
But first, this Friday offers 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 during the Special Observing Event “The Moon’s ‘Straight Wall’ (and More) in the Eyepiece.”
On September 27 and October 4, “Mars Exploration Update” will provide a news update on the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity and other craft, and a preview of the MAVEN orbiter to study the Martian atmosphere.
On October 11, viewers will be treated to “the dramatic shadowing along the Moon’s terminator” as lunar night transitions into day, as well as terraced craters, through a variety of telescopes.
Other offerings this year include:
• “Human Space Flight in Transition,” on October 18 and 25, will explore the players in the human space flight “drama” and evaluate their chances of success and survival during a time of “profound flux.”
• “Holiday Telescope Buyer Survival Guide” on November 1 offers tips on how to shop for a telescope before the good suppliers sell out of the best starter instruments for the holidays.
• “Comet ISON: Possibly Spectacular, Possibly Not!” on November 8 and 15 will provide the latest predictions on the behavior of Comet ISON – a potentially spectacular sight in early December – and provide tips on viewing this “icy visitor.”
• “The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST): NASA’s Next Big Thing” on November 22 will take a close look at NASA’s successor to the Hubble Space Telescope and the efforts to keep the program moving toward a hoped-for 2018 launch.
• “A Winter’s Solstice” on December 6 and 13 offers 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 and provides the history of ancient observances of the Winter Solstice.
• “Starbirth in Orion’s Sword” on January 10 and 17 explores the Great Orion Nebula and shares 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 January 24 offers a view through a variety of telescopes of the winter sky, including the bounty of bright stars surrounding its signature constellation, Orion the Hunter, with Jupiter as a special guest.
• “Cataloguing the Sky” on January 31 and February 7 ends the winter season by demystifying those arcane object designations such as M31, NGC 4565, and SAO 150058 and traces the development of some of the best-known astronomical catalogs.
If clouds intervene during viewing events, the program will stay in the Planetarium with high-resolution images.
The feature shows are at 8 p.m. and are preceded by “The Night Sky Show” at 7 p.m., offering the latest news in astronomy and space exploration, a family-friendly “tour” of the constellations, and the chance to ask astronomy-related questions, officials said.
The John Drescher Planetarium, which features the Digistar projection system, is located near the elevators on the second floor of Drescher Hall (1900 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica).
Tickets are available at the door and cost $6 ($5 seniors age 60+ 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.”
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