Santa Monica College’s John Drescher Planetarium continues its Friday evening events in April 2021 with free, live virtual shows presented online at smc.edu/planetarium. The friendly presentations will provide updates on Blue Origin activities, the European Space Agency’s Gaia mission, and spring sky highlights to enjoy through binoculars and small telescopes.
The Friday evening shows are at 8 p.m. and are preceded by a streamlined, virtual digest of the popular Night Sky Show at 7 p.m., offering the latest news in astronomy and space exploration. The shows include the chance to chat with the planetarium lecturers and ask astronomy-related questions.
The planetarium is exploring a variety of ways to present its shows while the Santa Monica College (SMC) campuses are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, the planetarium is using the Zoom platform. To attend the shows, the Zoom software version 5.0 or higher must be installed on the viewer’s computer. A free download is available at zoom.com.

The April 2021 shows are:
• Friday, April 2, at 8 p.m. (following The Night Sky Show at 7 p.m.): “Blue Origin – On the Radar at Last?” — Senior Lecturer Jim Mahon. Blue Origin, one of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ companies, has been developing its own reusable rocket engines and boosters, test flying a suborbital passenger capsule for commercial use, and working on a lunar landing system. The company also won a contract to supply booster engines to United Launch Alliance for the new Vulcan launch vehicle. That same engine will power Blue Origin’s New Glenn, scheduled for first flight late this year. Free. Zoom at smc.edu/planetarium.

• Friday, April 9 & 23, at 8 p.m. (following The Night Sky Show at 7 p.m.): “Gaia: Earth Mother Watching the Stars” — Associate Lecturer Sarah Vincent. The stars of the Milky Way dance to the Music of the Spheres. The European Space Agency’s Gaia mission, named for the Greek goddess of Earth, is mapping the positions and motions of the closest, brightest stars to an accuracy never before achieved. Show will take a look at the Milky Way through the eyes of Gaia. Free. Zoom at smc.edu/planetarium.

• Friday, April 30, at 8 p.m. (following The Night Sky Show at 7 p.m.): “Binocular and Small Scope Highlights of the Spring Sky” — Senior Lecturer Jim Mahon. With the constellations of winter giving way to those of spring, small telescope and binocular users have new, seasonal Deep Sky targets available. The show will present some of the best, with close-ups and low-power views to simulate how they look in small telescopes and binoculars. Then, the show will switch to the freeware desktop planetarium program Stellarium and “locate” those targets in a virtual star party. Guests are invited to ask about locating a galaxy, cluster, or nebula they believe to be in the sky and bright enough for small instruments. (Note: This show repeats May 7, with Sunday Matinee May 2.) Free. Zoom at smc.edu/planetarium.

More information is available online at smc.edu/planetarium or by calling
310-434-3005. 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