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SMC Planetarium Explores Exoplanets and Space Flights  

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By Lookout Staff

January 26, 2022 -- Santa Monica College's John Drescher Planetarium will explore the search for planets beyond our solar system during a live virtual show next month.

The Planetarium also will present a show that looks at the latest developments in human space flight by focusing on three major projects.

Illustration of Exoplanets
Artist's impression (not to scale) of how commonly planets orbit the stars in the Milky Way (Courtesy of European Southern Observatory (ESO))


The free shows take place Fridays at 8 p.m. and are preceded by a streamlined, virtual digest of the popular Night Sky Show at 7 p.m. that offers the latest news in astronomy and space exploration.

Next Friday, February 4, Associate Lecturer Sarah Vincent presents "Exoplanets and How We Find Them,” which explains how astronomers have located 4,400 currently known planets, almost all of them in the Milky Way.

The known exoplanets range from the least massive -- about twice the size of the moon -- to the most massive, which is some 30 times the mass of Jupiter, so massive it could be a dwarf star instead.

The time it can take an exoplanet to orbit its star also varies widely, from a few hours to thousands of years, according to astronomers.

The first detection of an exoplanet in 1988 intensified interest in finding planets that orbit in a star's "habitable zone," making it conducive to supporting extraterrestrial life.

SMC's show will discuss "the missions and methods used to discover planets beyond the solar system," event organizers said.

On Friday, February 18 and 25, Senior Lecturer Jim Mahon presents “2022 Human Space Flight Preview.”

The show focuses on "the flight of SLS/Orion on the Artemis 1 shakedown" and "the expansion of China’s space station, the first commercial SpaceX Dragon mission to the International Space Station."

It also looks at "Boeing’s delayed second attempt at a Starliner test flight to the ISS," organizers said. These three projects "are just some of this year's kaleidoscope of human space flight developments."

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

"The shows include the chance to chat with the planetarium lecturers and ask questions related to astronomy and space exploration," planetarium officials said.

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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