The Santa Monica College (SMC) John Drescher Planetarium has unveiled its schedule of fall 2019 feature shows and special telescope-viewing sessions. The season’s shows include several presenting a 50-year retrospective on the flights of Apollo, and instructions on the best ways to use binoculars to enjoy the night sky.

The feature shows are at 8 p.m. and are preceded by “The Night Sky Show” at 7 p.m. with 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 2019 lineup is:

• September 6: Special Observing Event: “First-Quarter Moon, Jupiter, and Saturn” — A look through various telescopes at the Moon and its craters, “seas,” and mountains, followed by a look at Jupiter’s cloud bands and major moons, and the lovely, unreal-looking rings of Saturn. If clouds intervene, the program will stay in the planetarium with high-resolution images.

• September 13: Backyard Observing: “Binocular Highlights of the Autumn Sky” — How to use binoculars to enjoy the highlights of the autumn sky, how to get oriented in the skies of Southern California, what the numbers printed on binoculars mean, and more. If weather permits, the program will move outdoors for a look through binoculars, and guests are invited to bring along their own binoculars.

• September 20: “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….

• September 27 & October 11: “NASA’s Orion Crew Vehicle: The Long and Winding Road” — Designed originally to be a general-purpose successor to the Space Shuttle, Crew Exploration Vehicle Orion has evolved through various design incarnations to emerge as a dedicated deep space vehicle for a crew of four, with a possible first flight in late 2020 or soon after.

• October 4: Special Observing Event: “A Crescent Moon, Saturn, and a Pretty Double Star” — A look through various telescopes at a fat 6-day-old crescent Moon and the always beautiful Saturn, as well as the pretty multicolored double star Albireo, riding high overhead in Cygnus, the Swan. If clouds intervene, the program will stay in the planetarium with high-resolution images.

• October 18 & 25: 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.

• November 1: “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 demystify the world of telescopes and provide some concrete examples and recommendations for first-time telescope shoppers.

• November 8: Special Observing Event: “A Gibbous Moon, the Ring Nebula, and a Pretty Double Star!” – A look through a variety of telescopes at a fat 12-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 15 & 22: 50-Year Retrospective: The Flights of Apollo: “Apollo 12 50 Years On – The Essential Mission” — If Apollo was to provide good science, precision landing was paramount. Apollo 12, commanded by Pete Conrad, was targeted to land in the Ocean of Storms, within walking distance of the Surveyor 3 probe. The show revisits this essential mission.

• December 6 & 13: “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.

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 or for information. All shows subject to change or cancellation without notice.

Submitted by Grace Smith, SMC Public Information Officer

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