SMC Planetarium Explores Space Colonies and the Search for Alien Life


By Lookout Staff

June 21, 2022 — Santa Monica College’s (SMC) John Drescher Planetarium will take a look back next month at a visionary’s plans to build space colonies and explore an unlikely place to find extraterrestrial life.

But first, next month’s free, live virtual shows the will focus on the next generation of ground-based telescopes during two shows on July 8 and 15, at 8 pm following The Night Sky Show at 7 pm


First edition of Gerard O’Neill’s
“The High Frontier”
The shows — presented by senior lecturer Jim Mahon and associate lecturer Sarah Vincent — will look at how “a new wave of highly capable ground-based telescopes is approaching first light,” event organizers said.

They are led by the Vera Rubin Observatory, “whose innovative wide-field survey telescope is expected to shed new light on dark matter this year.”

The new telescope will be followed in the near future by the Giant Magellan Telescope and the Thirty Meter Telescope.”

As these new instruments come online, they will have to contend with a sky cluttered by enormous constellations of small satellites, which could hamstring the scientific effectiveness of these magnificent machines.”

On Friday, July 22, Mahon will present “The Space Colony Concepts of Gerard O’Neill,” a look at how the physicist, space activist and inventor envisioned the future of humans in space.

Hatched in the mid-1970s, O’Neill’s vision of space colonies included “his imagined orbital colonies built from lunar materials,” event organizers said.

The colonies would produce “solar power satellites that would free Earth from dependence on fossil and nuclear energy by beaming power directly into Earth’s grid, and expanding humanity out into the solar system.”

The show will “examine O’Neill’s optimism vision in historical context, and with thought for today’s realities.”

Next month’s line-up concludes Friday, July 29 with “The Lure of Icy Moons” presented by Mahon and Vincent.

“When contemplating interesting places in which to seek possible life in the solar system, thoughts of Mars quickly give way to a more exotic-seeming destination,” organizers said.

That destination is “the icy moons of outer planets like Jupiter and Saturn,” whose subsurface oceans that exist beneath those ice crusts seem to be rich in the chemical building blocks of life.”

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

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.

“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 smc.edu/planetarium or by calling 310-434-3005. Shows are subject to change or cancellation without notice.

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