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Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Hector Gonzalez
Special to The Lookout

January 4, 2016 -- Thousands of comets, those dirty snowballs of the galaxy, will be paying visits to our solar system this year. More than 40 of them will be visible with the naked eye.

For a closer view, however, skywatchers can visit the John Drescher Planetarium at Santa Monica College next month for a special presentation on the man's latest mission to a comet, one of several featured shows highlighting the planetarium's winter 2016 schedule.

All featured shows begin at 8 p.m. Each presentation is preceded at 7 p.m. by the “Night Sky Show,” an update on the latests in astronomy news and space exploration.

The sky show includes a “family friendly tour of the constellations,” as well as a question-and-answer session with a planetarium staff member, said Grace Smith, SMC spokeswoman.

Tickets are available at the door. Tickets for a single show or telescope-viewing session are $6, or $5 for seniors age 60 and older and children 12 and younger. Tickets for evening “double bills” are $11, or $9 for seniors and children.

Leading off the winter season, “Starbirth in Orion’s Sword” will explore the Great Orion Nebula, on Friday, January 8 and again on Friday, January 22. Visitors can learn about recent discoveries that reveal the hundreds of potential planetary systems forming within the nebula.

A telescope viewing session targeting Orion will be held on Friday, January 29.

A “Special Observing Event: A Crescent Moon and Winter Constellations” is scheduled on Friday, January 15.

Skywatchers can get a detailed look at several of the moon’s larger craters, as well as the Seas of Tranquility and Serenity, and enjoy some of the winter constellations. If clouds intervene, the program will be presented inside the planetarium, with high-resolution images.

On Friday, January 29, visitors to the planetarium can explore the winter sky and the bounty of stars -- including the Pleiades Cluster – at a “Special Observing Event: Orion, the Seven Sisters, and the Winter Hexagon!”

The Winter Hexagon includes some of the brightest stars visible. Together they form a large and easily found pattern in the winter sky.

The season concludes on Friday, February 5 with “Rosetta and Comet 67P,” an examination of the European Space Agency’s Rosetta Mission, which photographed the periodic comet known as Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Visitors can review the mission in images and find out what we’ve learned about these icy emissaries from the outermost reaches of our solar system.

The John Drescher Planetarium is on the second floor of Drescher Hall on the SMC Main Campus, 1900 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica.

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

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