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Mars, Meteors and a Motion Picture of the Universe

Bob Kronovetrealty
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Santa Monica College
1900 Pico Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90405
(310) 434-4000


By Lookout Staff

June 21, 2023 -- "Universal Pictures" will take on a new meaning at The Santa Monica College (SMC) planetarium next month with a look at a cutting-edge telescope that can take a motion picture of all that we think exists.

The John Drescher Planetarium will also explore the history of missions to Mars and prepare star gazers for this year's Perseid Meteors during the free virtual shows on Fridays at 8 p.m.

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The shows are preceded by a streamlined, virtual digest of the popular Night Sky Show at 7 p.m. that offers the latest news in astronomy and space exploration.

Next month's line-up kicks off on Friday, July 7 with a look at the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, an 8-meter-class survey telescope that "will perform daily all-sky surveys at extremely high resolution," event organizers said.

The show, presented by Senior Lecturer Jim Mahon, "investigates the intricacies of this ingenious machine for capturing a motion picture of our universe" by producing "over 20 terabytes of data each night," organizers said.

On Friday, July 14, Mahon will present Part 4 of the "Solar System Exploration Survey," which takes a look at Mars, "the Red Planet, which has long intrigued humanity, and has naturally attracted a large number of space probes and robotic emissaries."

The show -- Chapter 1 of the Mars series -- "will cover the first era of Martian exploration, culminating with the Viking orbiters and landers in the 1970s."

Chapter 2 takes place the following week on Friday, July 21, when Lecturer Sarah Vincent takes a look at the second era of Mars exploration, starting with the arrival of the Mars Pathfinder Mission in 1997.

"This heady era saw the MER rovers and their descendants, plus a whole international fleet of orbiters, still going strong," organizers said.

The July lineup wraps up on Friday the 28th with "Fire in the Sky – The Perseid Meteors of 2023” presented by Senior Lecturer Jim Mahon.

"This year’s Perseids will be ideal for observing from a dark-sky site on their peak night of August 12-13," event organizers said.

The show will discuss "the origins of this annual celestial spectacle, provide tips for observing the shower, and even point viewers to a group (not associated with SMC) they can join at a dark camping site to enjoy the meteor shower."

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

"The shows include the chance to chat with the planetarium lecturers and ask questions related to astronomy and space exploration," planetarium officials said.

More information is available online at or by calling 310-434-3005. Shows are subject to change or cancellation without notice.

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