SANTA MONICA—Santa Monica College’s John Drescher Planetarium will be featuring free virtual shows throughout the month of December. 

The shows allow audiences the opportunity to ask lecturers questions about the current events in astronomy. This month’s shows will feature the accomplishments of Apollo 17 and will explore the history and events surrounding the annual Winter Solstice which transpires around December 21.

The following upcoming shows are: 

  • Friday, December 2 and December 9, at 8 p.m. (following The Night Sky Show at 7 p.m.): 50-Year Retrospective: The Flights of Apollo: “Apollo 17: The Last Hurrah” — Senior Lecturer Jim Mahon. In December 1972, the final Apollo lunar landing was made by Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt as they brought LM Challenger down for three days of scientific and philosophical investigation in the Valley of Taurus-Littrow. Keenly aware they were the last people who would walk on the Moon for some time and watched over by their crewmate Ron Evans overhead in Command Module America, Cernan and Schmitt tried their best to remind the world how remarkable Apollo was.
  • Friday, December 16, at 8 p.m. (following The Night Sky Show at 7 p.m.): “A Winter’s Solstice” — Senior Lecturer Jim Mahon. Show examines the history of various ancient observances of the Winter Solstice and how they have evolved and melded with Judeo-Christian holidays, and takes a look at a remarkable planetary conjunction in 2 B.C., a leading candidate for a scientific explanation for the Star of Bethlehem. Free. Zoom at

In-person planetarium features are still on hiatus due to COVID-19.

Jim Mahon, who is one of the lecturers at the planetarium, spoke with Canyon News in an interview regarding the subject of astronomy and the planetarium itself:

“Studying astronomy is actually studying, well, everything!  Astronomy looks at the entire universe outside of our one little planet.  In the process of doing this, I believe that it not only reminds us of the immensity of the gorgeous universe we live in, but also that we are part of it all.”

“When I do a program for an audience in the dome, I’m not just selling wonder at the majesty, immensity, and complex beauty of it all – I also go to pains to point out that our Sun and Earth formed from the wreckage of a previous generation of giant, dying stars, which scattered the building blocks of life itself across this part of the universe before the solar system formed. This means that the intuition of natural philosophers since ancient times, and more modern, dawn-of-modern science sages like John Muir (a personal hero of mine, particularly when I was a young Sierra backpacker…) are correct – we are indeed connected to the Earth and the rest of the universe around us, not just in a mystical or spiritual sense, but in a very literal and physical one.  In your body, my body, in every rock, tree, bird, dirt clod, giraffe, and trout, there are atoms that were created in the interiors of those ancient stars.”

When describing the college’s planetarium, Mahon stated that, “it’s an unassuming small venue, where we can work a mixture of science education and wonder into an elixir to excite curiosity and enthusiasm for the universe around us in students of all ages, with the occasional session where, by some mysterious alchemy we manage to transcend that and kick things into a sort of hyper drive session between audience and presenter. It’s a starship of the imagination, in the shape of a hemisphere. We celebrate the power of human curiosity and the beauty of our Universe.”

For more information, visit: or call 310-434-3005. All shows subject to change or cancellation without notice.