The Santa Monica College John Drescher Planetarium presents its schedule of Fall 2018 feature shows and special telescope-viewing sessions, which begin on September 7. The season’s shows include several presenting a 50-year retrospective on the flights of Apollo.

The feature shows are at 8 p.m. and are 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.

The Fall 2018 lineup is:

  • September 7 & 28: 50-Year Retrospective: The Flights of Apollo: “Late 1968: Prelude to Tranquility” – Working in a technological bubble within the political and social upheaval of late-1968 America, the personnel of the Apollo program stood poised to produce the visible string of missions that would culminate in the triumphant landing of Apollo 11 on the Moon the following summer. But 50 years ago, none of this seemed inevitable.
  • September 14: Special Observing Event: “Crescent Moon and Saturn!” – Drescher Planetarium’s Fall observing events begin with a look through various telescopes at a 5-day-old crescent Moon and the always amazing ringed wonders of Saturn. Viewers will also give Mars — six weeks after its closest approach — a quick look, and check out a few other targets, depending on sky conditions. If clouds intervene, the program will stay in the planetarium with high-resolution images.
  • September 21: “TILT! Equinoxes and Solstices Explained” – Most city dwellers are only vaguely aware of what the equinoxes and solstices actually are. The Digistar planetarium projector and other imagery will be used to try to remedy this disconnect from the natural world – and dispel some myths, like that egg story….
  • October 5 & 19: 50-Year Retrospective: The Flights of Apollo: “Apollo 7: The Moon Ship Takes Flight, Grumpily” – In October 1968, Wally Schirra, Walt Cunningham, and Donn Eisele put the Apollo Command and Service Module through its paces on a 10-day test flight in Earth orbit. The mission was the first American flight of a 3-person spacecraft and featured the first widely-seen live television from space, but all was not sweetness and light between the crew and mission control during this flight.
  • October 12: Guest Lecture: Shelley Bonus: “Water and Ice! Comets, Asteroids, Dwarf Planets, and Cryovolcanism, Oh My!” – Guest Lecturer Shelley Bonus will cover the evolving understanding of the origin of water on Earth, and the plentiful water in both liquid and ice form in and on other solar system bodies like moons, asteroids, comets, and dwarf planets (like Pluto), some of which have cryovolcanoes.
  • October 26: Special Observing Event: “First Quarter Moon, the Ring Nebula, and a Pretty Double Star!” – A look through a variety of telescopes at a fat 11-day old gibbous Moon and its Copernicus crater and Mare Imbrium, as well as a look at the Ring Nebula and the pretty multicolored double star Albireo, the “head” of Cygnus the Swan. If clouds intervene, the program will stay in the planetarium with high-resolution images.
  • November 2: “Holiday Telescope Buyer Survival Guide” – Anyone considering giving a telescope as a holiday gift will face a bewildering array of choices and a whole new jargon. This program – presented in time to shop before the good suppliers sell out of the best starter instruments – will de-mystify things and provide some concrete examples and recommendations for first-time telescope shoppers.
  • November 9: 50-Year Retrospective: The Flights of Apollo: “Ranger, Surveyor, and Lunar Orbiter – Scouting the Moon” – As NASA prepared for the first lunar landings, the Ranger, Surveyor, and Lunar Orbiter programs came and went quickly, but hugely increased our knowledge of the Moon, like whether the lunar dust would be able to support the weight of a crewed spacecraft. This feature show will be repeated in Spring 2019.
  • November 16: Special Observing Event: “The Straight Wall on the Moon and the Seven Sisters” – A look through various telescopes at a 9-day-old gibbous Moon and its “Straight Wall” (Rupes Recta) and terraced inner walls of Copernicus crater, along with views of the beautiful Pleiades star cluster, the Seven Sisters of Greek lore. If clouds intervene, the program will stay in the planetarium with high-resolution images.
  • November 30: “A Winter’s Solstice” – As the holiday season approaches, this feature show discusses the history of ancient observances of the Winter Solstice, and takes a look at a re-creation of the remarkable planetary conjunction in 2 BCE – a leading candidate for a scientific explanation of the Star of Bethlehem.
  • December 7 & 14: 50-Year Retrospective: The Flights of Apollo: “Apollo 8 – Leaving the Cradle and ‘Saving 1968’” – The Lunar Module was behind schedule, but the end-of-the-decade deadline set by President Kennedy loomed. NASA decided to launch a crew into lunar orbit during the December 1968 window, which included the Christmas holiday, and humans left their home planet and viewed the Earth as a small sphere in the blackness of space for the first time.

The John Drescher Planetarium, which features a Digistar projection system, is located near the elevators on the second floor of Drescher Hall (1900 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica). Tickets are available at the door and cost $11 ($9 seniors and children) for the evening’s scheduled “double bill,” or $6 ($5 seniors age 60+ and children age 12 and under) for a single show or telescope-viewing session.

Please call 310-434-3005 or see smc.edu/eventsinfo or smc.edu/planetarium for information. All shows subject to change or cancellation without notice.

Santa Monica College is a California Community College accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

Submitted by Grace Smith