Santa Monica College’s John Drescher Planetarium continues its Friday evening events in winter 2023 with free, live virtual shows presented online at, plus a special hybrid presentation in January with in-person observing through on-campus telescopes. The winter shows will take a look at recent imagery from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), explore the Sun’s increase of activity toward Solar maximum, discuss what’s next after NASA’s Commercial Crew/Cargo program, and offer an update on China’s space program.

The Friday evening feature 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 questions.

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 online shows, the Zoom software must be installed on the viewer’s computer. A free download is available at

A special in-person telescope observing event is scheduled for January 27, depending on COVID restrictions, with final confirmation and details posted by January 20 at

The winter 2023 shows are:

• Friday, January 6, at 8 p.m. (following The Night Sky Show at 7 p.m.): “James Webb Space Telescope – One Year after Launch!” —Senior Lecturer Jim Mahon. A full year after the launch of JWST, tonight’s show will review the story so far, and share some of the remarkable images and science streaming down daily from humanity’s premier space telescope. Free. Zoom at

• Friday, January 13, at 8 p.m. (following The Night Sky Show at 7 p.m.): “Our Star Ramps Toward Maximum” — Associate Lecturer Sarah Vincent. As the Sun increases activity toward Solar maximum — estimated to occur in a range from late 2024 to 2026 — Sol is under unprecedented scrutiny by humanity. Tonight’s show will look at results of ground- and space-based solar astronomy and what science theorizes they might portend for our future. Free. Zoom at

• Friday, January 20, at 8 p.m. (following The Night Sky Show at 7 p.m.): “NASA Commercial Crew/Cargo, and the Twilight of ISS” —Senior Lecturer Jim Mahon. As we move into the mid-2020s, NASA should finally have two crew transportation vehicles and multiple cargo delivery systems for the International Space Station in operation. With the program moving toward its final years, what is next in Earthorbit? Free. Zoom at

• Friday, January 27, at 7 p.m. (starting with The Night Sky Show at 7 p.m.): “Special Hybrid Show: Night Sky Show and Observing Event: Jupiter, The Moon, and the Pleiades” — Senior Lecturer Jim Mahon and Associate Lecturer Sarah Vincent. PLEASE NOTE: The evening’s hybrid presentation will start at 7 p.m. with the Night Sky Show hosted on the Zoom platform by Associate Planetarium Lecturer Sarah Vincent, and will be followed at 8 p.m. by in-person observing through on-campus telescopes, guided by Senior Planetarium Lecturer Jim Mahon.

The in-person observing event — which will be confirmed and final arrangements will be posted at the week of January 20 — will take a look at Jupiter, the Moon, and the beautiful Pleiades star cluster — the Seven Sisters of Greek lore — one of the prettiest open clusters in the sky. Masks will be required. If COVID protocols interfere, the observing event will be replaced by a Zoom feature show.  Free. Zoom at

• Friday, February 3, at 8 p.m. (following The Night Sky Show at 7 p.m.): “China’s Space Program” — Senior Lecturer Jim Mahon. China is expanding its Space Station and continuing a methodical program of lunar and planetary missions. Tonight’s show will review the recent history and probable near-term goals of the overall Chinese space effort. Free. Zoom at

More information is available online at 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