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A Star Is Born -- and Dies -- at SMC Planetarium Next Month

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By Lookout Staff

April 25, 2023 -- The Santa Monica College (SMC) planetarium next month will take a look at the life cycle of stars, the surface of exoplanets and America's first space station.

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.

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On May 5, at 8 p.m. lecturer Sarah Vincent will present "Understanding Exoplanets,” which explains how can scientists know what is on the surfaces of other worlds.

The more than 4,400 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.

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 and eventually leading to headlines proclaiming “Water World Discovered.”

A 70-minute condensed version of “The Night Sky Show” and the feature presentation will take place May 7 at a Sunday Matinee, planetarium officials said.

On May 12, Vincent will present "The Life Cycle of Stars: A Walk Along the Main Sequence,” which takes a close look at how stars are born and what happens when they die, from stellar nurseries to black holes.

On May 19, Senior Lecturer Jim Mahon will present Part One of a 50-year retrospective of Skylab, America’s first space station.

"In May 1973, the last Saturn V booster placed Skylab -- a 76-metric-ton space station -- into Earth orbit.

"Although beset by early problems requiring some ingenious repairs by NASA and the first crew, Skylab was eventually occupied by three separate crews, with the final crew living aboard for 84 days, a record in early 1974."

Part One of the two-part retrospective will cover "the development, launch, and frantic repairs during the first Skylab crew mission." Part Two will wrap up the retrospective next fall.

Planetarium lecturers are currently using the Zoom platform to present shows while the actual on-campus planetarium remains closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

To attend the shows, the Zoom software 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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