Night Sky Planetarium

Tilt your head back to gaze at the stars at night in L.A. How many stars can you see? Innumerable stars? In urban areas which are full of artificial illumination, stars tend to be lost. What we see all the time is only a small part of all stars existing in the sky. However, there is a place to enjoy more stars in immediate proximity to you. It's the John Drescher planetarium on the second floor of Drescher Hall at Santa Monica College.

SMC's planetarium was originally built on the second floor of the Technology building in the late 1960's because of SMC's need for astronomy education and its potential for service to the community and local schools. Although the planetarium and its projector were severely damaged through the Northridge Earthquake in January in 1994, SMC was able to rebuild its planetarium with the earthquake compensation by FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the donation of John Drescher in 1997.

This facility has presented the Night Sky Show for the public at 7 p.m. every Friday for several decades. In the show, Jim Mahon, who has two decades of astronomy outreach experience, holds a planetarium lecture in the night sky which is updated weekly for 50 minutes.

On April 23, Mahon started a lecture about the latest news in space exploration and astronomy with pictures on the planetarium's dome screen. After, the planetarium got dark and beautiful night sky appeared over our heads. The sky was crammed with luminary stars. They seemed to be within grasping distance.

It is a wonderful scene rarely get o see in L.A. Then, lines among those stars appeared to show many constellations. The Milky Way, galaxy spiral, black hole simulation also entertained audience. Some of the spectators felt like they were being swallowed up by a black hole. At the end of the show, the screen showed the moving of those stars at increasing pace, it was like snow falling. There was no recorded interpretation but Mahon's live interpretation throughout the whole show.

Mahon has lectured at the planetarium since late 2005. "[The Drescher planetarium] is smaller than the large planetariums like the one at Griffith Observatory, and is a more intimate space. In a smaller planetarium, there is the chance to interact with the presenter both through audience reaction and questions, so the show is different every time. I particularly try to tailor programs on the fly to address items that the audience members show increased interest in."

He also tries to incorporate programs that provide a personal experience of discovery. The planetarium will provide a feature show "Special observing events: Saturn and the Moon" after the Night Sky Show on May 1. Visit the John Drescher planetarium website and get its schedule of the show. "It's a beautiful universe out there. Give it a closer look and get to know your neighborhood!" said Mahon.