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SMC Planetarium Offers Varying Views of the Stars

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By Lookout Staff

April 22, 2021 -- Next month, amateur star gazers can learn to spot a nebula with a pair of binoculars or peer into the hearts of distant galaxies using microwaves.

Santa Monica College’s John Drescher Planetarium will cover how to view these spring sky highlights during its free, live virtual shows presented online during May.

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA)

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) (Courtesy of the European Southern Observatory)

The month kicks off with a free special Sunday Afternoon Matinee on May 2 at 2 p.m. that combines an abbreviated version of “The Night Sky Show” and the week’s featured evening show, “Binocular and Small Scope Highlights of the Spring Sky.”

The show "presents some of the best seasonal Deep Sky targets available" as "the constellations of winter give way to those of spring," planetarium officials said.

The extended version of the show will be presented by Senior Lecturer Jim Mahon Friday, May 7, at 8 p.m. following The Night Sky Show at 7 p.m.

The show presents some of the best targets "with close-ups and low-power views to simulate how they look in small telescopes and binoculars.

"Then, the show will switch to the freeware desktop planetarium program Stellarium and 'locate' those targets in a virtual star party," the show's organizers said.

Guests are invited to ask about locating a galaxy, cluster, or nebula they believe to be in the sky and bright enough for small instruments.

On Friday, May 14 and 21, at 8 p.m. following The Night Sky Show at 7, the planetarium presents “ALMA: Chile’s Cutting Edge Microwave Array” with Associate Lecturer Sarah Vincent.

"High in the arid desert of Chile, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) looks through Earth’s ocean of air observing diverse phenomena, from nearby comets to the hearts of distant galaxies," organizers said.

The show "will explore the universe, not in visible light, but in microwaves."

The Friday shows begin at 8 p.m. and are preceded an hour earlier by a streamlined, virtual digest of the popular Night Sky Show that offers the latest news in astronomy and space exploration and the chance to ask astronomy-related questions.

The planetarium is exploring a variety of ways to present its shows while the Santa Monica College (SMC) campuses are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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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