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SMC Planetarium Presents "The Meteors of Summer"
By Lookout Staff
July 23, 2021 -- On August 12, when moonlight is "relatively absent" and the sky "fairly dark," star gazers can sit back and enjoy the peak of a summer sky show without a telescope.
The Santa Monica College (SMC) John Drescher Planetarium will prep viewers for the annual celestial event with free, live virtual presentations of “The Meteors of Summer -– The 2021 Perseids.”
Hosted by Senior Lecturer Jim Mahon, the show "will discuss the spectacular sights in the sky and explore their amazing journey through space and time, touching upon their regularity and the reasons for it."
The dramatic display is triggered by leftover pieces of the Perseid comet that burn up as they pass through the earth's atmosphere. The falling debris causes the lights that streak across the entire sky, reaching as many as 60 per hour.
The Perseid comet, which takes 133 years to orbit the sun, is named 109P/Swift-Tuttle, after the two men who discovered it in 1862, Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle, although the shower is mentioned in Chinese annals as early as 36 A.D..
Measuring 16 miles across, the comet is thought to be twice the size of the asteroid blamed for the extinction of the dinosaurs.
The show takes place Friday, August 6, at 8 p.m. and is 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,” planetarium officials said.
The show will be repeated during a free special Sunday Afternoon Matinee on August 8 at 2 p.m. The matinee includes an abbreviated version of “The Night Sky Show.”
On Friday, August 13 and 20 at 8 p.m., Mahon hosts the "James Webb Space Telescope Preview," which provides an update on progress toward launch day and reviews "the elaborate deployment steps that must happen to get useful results from the massive infrared instrument," organizers said.
"After years of delays and cost growth, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is targeting an October launch from Kourou, French Guiana, aboard an Ariane 5 booster contributed by the European Space Agency.
"The multibillion dollar Webb is often touted as the successor to the iconic Hubble Space Telescope, but there are significant differences between them, including mirror size," show organizers said.
The Friday shows "include the chance to chat with the planetarium lecturers and ask questions related to astronomy and space exploration," event organizers said.
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 zoom.com.
More information is available online at smc.edu/planetarium or by calling 310-434-3005. Shows are subject to change or cancellation without notice.
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