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Latest Space Flight Developments and the Winter Solstice at SMC Planetarium

Bob Kronovetrealty
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By Lookout Staff

November 19, 2000 -- Santa Monica College's (SMC) John Drescher Planetarium will focus on the Winter Solstice and the latest developments in space flight during its December shows.

The fisrt two shows -- on Friday, December 4 and 11 at 8 p.m. -- will review this year's highlights in astronomy and spaceflight, which included the launch of three missions to Mars and atmospheric test flights made by SpaceX.

“2020: Astronomy and Space Flight Year in Review” will be presented by Senior Lecturer Jim Mahon.

On Friday, December 18, at 8 p.m. Mahon will present “A Winter’s Solstice,” which examines the history of various ancient observances of an event that marks a turning point in the year.

Known as midwinter, it marks the year's shortest day and longest night, the day when the sun reaches its lowest point in the sky and is reborn.

"People have long felt the need to face the coming of winter with festivities, and customs like the burning of the 'Yule Log' and hanging of evergreens seem to far predate the celebration of Christmas in December," planetarium officials said.

In northern Europe, the solstice was celebrated as a holiday called "Yule," which would take a more modern form in such popular traditions as the Christmas tree, the Christmas wreath and the Yule log.

The show also reviews the science that might explain the star mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew that appeared above Bethlehem the night Jesus was born.

In the Gospel story, the three Wise Men, or Magi, journey to Jerusalem to worship the infant Jesus by following the star.

The show "takes a look at a re-creation of the remarkable planetary conjunction in 2 BCE that is a leading candidate for a scientific explanation of the Star of Bethlehem."

The Friday evening are preceded by a streamlined, virtual digest of the popular Night Sky Show at 7 p.m., offering the latest news in astronomy and space exploration and the chance to ask astronomy-related questions.

Currently, the planetarium is using the Zoom platform. To attend the shows, the Zoom software version 5.0 or higher must be installed on the viewer’s computer. A free download is available at

More information is available online at or by calling 310-434-3005. Shows are subject to change or cancellation without notice.

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