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SMC Planetarium to Explore Brown Dwarfs and Quantum Computers

By Lookout Staff

December 15, 2023 -- The Santa Monica College (SMC) planetarium next month will take a look at the recent discovery of the tiniest free-floating brown dwarf and discuss whether stars can provide a new source of clean energy.

The John Drescher Planetarium also will continue its special "Women of Space Series" and, by audience request, explain quantum computers, event organizers said.

The free, live virtual 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 month's lineup kicks off Friday, January 5 with “JWST: Two Years in Space,” a look at the latest images from the James Webb Space Telescope, which is now more than a million miles from Earth.

Associate Lecturer Sarah Vincent will "try to summarize the progress of JWST’s ongoing journey of research and discovery with images and descriptions from this spectacular project."

A team using the telescope recently announced it has identified "a tiny, free-floating brown dwarf with only three to four times the mass of Jupiter," according to NASA.

Brown dwarfs "form like stars, growing dense enough to collapse under their own gravity, but they never become dense and hot enough to begin fusing hydrogen and turn into a star," NASA said.

On Friday, January 12, Vincent will present “Women of Space Series: More Astronomers!” the second installment of a series focusing on "a long list" of women "who have made critical contributions to astronomical research and significant advances in the fields of astronomy and space exploration."

The series continues Friday January 19 when Vincent presents “Stellar Nuclear Fusion: Can We Harness Its Power?”

"Every star is a powerful nuclear reactor, and life on Earth owes its existence to the energy the Sun provides," organizers said. "Earth’s climate crisis, however, has launched the search for alternative sources of energy.

"The show offers ideas in response to the big question: Can the power of the stars be harnessed to provide clean energy?"

January's line-up concludes Friday, January 26 with “Audience Request – Quantum Computers” also presented by Vincent.

"Quantum computers are in the news, but what are they? How do they work? And will they replace our familiar 'classical' computers?

"The show takes a math-free dive into the world of qubits, entanglement, and superposition."

To attend the virtual 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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