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SMC Planetarium Explores Invisible Secrets

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By Lookout Staff

May 19, 2023 -- From dark matter and nebulae to deep sky exotica, the Santa Monica planetarium next month will explore a series unusual phenomena hidden in the universe.

The free virtual presentations at the John Drescher Planetarium also include a new Women of Space Series and a look at the history of rocketry, according to event organizers.

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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.

The June lineup kicks off June 2 with "A Look at the Dark Universe,” a presentation by lecturer Sarah Vincent that "will work to demystify dark matter and dark energy, those mysterious components that are theorized to make up most of the mass of the universe."

The following week, Vincent will present "Shedding Light on a Nebulous Cosmos,” a look inside nebulae, the mysterious clouds scattered across the universe.

The series continues June 16 with "Deep Sky Exotica, which looks beyond galaxies, star clusters and nebulae. Vincent will explore the "deep sky zoo" that includes "some truly exotic denizens like quasars, fast radio bursters and magnetars."

On June 22, Vincent will present "Women in Astronomy,” part of the Women of Space Series that looks at women "who have made significant advances in the fields of astronomy and space exploration."

They include Caroline Herschel, born in 1750, who is considered the first female astronomer, and Annie Jump Cannon, born in 1863, who co-created a system to organize and classify stars based on their temperatures and spectral types.

Among the notable women astronomers is astrophysicist Andrea Ghez, a UCLA professor whose research focuses on the center of the Milky Way galaxy.

Next month's lineup concludes June 30 with "A Short History of Rocketry,” a "capsule history of the diverse forms the rocket has taken," presented by senior lecturer Jim Mahon.

"Despite many alternative concepts, chemical rockets are still how humans get payloads (including themselves) into space," organizers said.

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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