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SMC Planetarium Offers a View of the Stars from Near and Far
By Lookout Staff
April 5, 2021 -- The Santa Monica College (SMC) planetarium this month will offer two views of the stars -- from an observatory launched deep into space and with a pair of binoculars from a backyard.
On Friday, April 9 and 23, the College’s John Drescher Planetarium presents “Gaia: Earth Mother Watching the Stars,” which explores the European Space Agency's (ESA) Gaia mission to chart a detailed three-dimensional map of the Galaxy.
Named for the Greek goddess of Earth, the mission launched in 2013 aims to map 1 billion astronomical objects before it is expected to end next year.
The virtual show will "take a look at the Milky Way through the eyes of Gaia," as it maps "the positions and motions of the closest, brightest stars to an accuracy never before achieved," the show's organizers said.
The mission is "revealing the composition, formation and evolution of the Galaxy," according to the ESA.
"Gaia will provide unprecedented positional and radial velocity measurements with the accuracies needed to produce a stereoscopic and kinematic census of about one billion stars in our Galaxy and throughout the Local Group," according to the space agency.
"This amounts to about 1 per cent of the Galactic stellar population."
On Friday, April 30, the planetarium presents “Binocular and Small Scope Highlights of the Spring Sky,” a virtual show with 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," event organizers said.
"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."
The show will then "switch to the freeware desktop planetarium program Stellarium and 'locate' those targets in a virtual star party," organizers said.
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."
The shows begin at 8 p.m. and are preceded an hour earlier by a streamlined, virtual digest of the popular Night Sky Show that offers the latest news in astronomy and space exploration and the chance to 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.
More information is available online at smc.edu/planetarium or by calling 310-434-3005. Shows are subject to change or cancellation without notice.
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