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Santa Monica College Planetarium Offers Latest on Trek to Asteroid


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September 28, 2017 -- The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft won't reach the asteroid Bennu for another year, but the images of Earth it sent back this month are awe inspiring.

The Santa Monica College John Drescher Planetarium will showcase the images snapped from the spaceship and update the mission, which is scheduled to collect gravel from the asteroid in 2020, during shows on October 6 and October 13, planetarium officials said.

"The OSIRIS-REx mission left Earth in September 2016 on a two-year voyage to collect and return with samples from asteroid Bennu, a potentially hazardous object posing a moderate threat of an Earth impact in the next 200 years," officials said.

"The mission -- including the spacecraft’s gravity assist flyby of Earth on September 22, 2017 -- will be discussed, and the latest flyby images presented."

Image of Earth taken from OSIRIS-REx
Image of Earth taken by OSIRIS-REx on September 22 (Image courtesy of NASA)

The images were snapped from about 11,000 miles from Earth by the spacecraft hours after completing its Earth Gravity Assist, a maneuver to help propel it towards the asteroid more than 100,000 miles away.

"Visible in this image are the Pacific Ocean and several familiar landmasses, including Australia in the lower left, and Baja California and the southwestern United States in the upper right," NASA officials wrote on the space agency's website.

Over the next two weeks, three of the spacecraft’s instruments will turn on and scan the Earth and Moon before departing for Bennu, which is as tall as the Empire State Building and as wide as five football fields.

The planetarium will stage two other shows in October.

On October 20, it presents "Apollo 4: When the Power Met the Dream," which revisits the first unmanned test in November 1967, a mission covered live on American television.

The show includes some of the original coverage of "this pivotal, triumphant day," planetarium officials said. The show will be presented again on November 3.

On October 27, the planetarium presents "Special Observing Event: “First Quarter Moon, the Ring Nebula, and a Pretty Double Star!”

"The feature is an opportunity to take a look through various telescopes at the first quarter Moon and some of the delights of the early autumn sky: the Moon and its Seas of Tranquility and Serenity, sites of the first and last human lunar landings to date; the Ring Nebula, and a view of double star Albireo," officials said.

The feature shows and a telescope viewing session take place at 8 p.m. and are preceded at 7 p.m. by “The Night Sky Show,” which offers "the latest news in astronomy and space exploration, a family-friendly 'tour' of the constellations and answers to astronomy-related questions.

The John Drescher Planetarium, which features a Digistar projection system, is located near the elevators on the second floor of Drescher Hall, 1900 Pico Boulevard.

Tickets are available at the door and cost $11 ($9 seniors and children) for the evening’s scheduled “double bill," or $6 ($5 seniors age 60 and older and children age 12 and under) for a single show or telescope-viewing session.

For more information call (310) 434-3005 or visit All shows are subject to change or cancellation without notice.


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