SMC Planetarium showcases images of the cosmos


By Jorge Casuso

July 21, 2022 – “Today we present humanity with a groundbreaking new vision of the cosmos,” NASA announced last week.

Next month, the John Drescher Planetarium at Santa Monica College will share and discuss these first images returned from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which now sits a million miles from Earth.

First image captured by the Webb Telescope (courtesy of NASA, ESA, CSA and STScI)

“The Big Reveal — Webb’s Early Images” — a free live virtual show featuring keynote speaker Jim Mahon and associate speaker Sarah Vincent — will take place Friday, August 5 and 12 at 8 p.m.

The full set of first color images and spectroscopic data from JWST, which NASA says “uncovers a collection of cosmic features elusive so far,” were released on July 12.

“These images, including the deepest infrared view of our universe ever taken, show us how Webb will help uncover the answers to questions we don’t even know how to ask yet,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

The questions, he said, “will help us better understand our universe and humanity’s place within it.”

The James Webb Telescope, a partnership with ESA (European Space Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency), is the largest and most powerful space telescope ever built.

The Drescher Planetarium presentations have been timed to “allow time for potential problems early in the operational life of this groundbreaking instrument,” event organizers said.

“If JWST falls victim to any type of failure, the show will conduct a post-mortem discussion of what happened.”

NASA released a report on Thursday that shows the telescope suffered a “significant, uncorrectable change” following a meteoroid hit in May, but concluded that the damage will not interfere with the ongoing mission of the telescope.

The shows are preceded at 7 p.m. by a simplified virtual summary of the popular Night Sky Show which offers the latest news in astronomy and space exploration.

Currently, the planetarium uses the Zoom platform. To watch the shows, Zoom software version 5.0 or higher must be installed on the viewer’s computer. A free download is available at zoom.com.

“Shows include the opportunity to chat with planetarium speakers 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 may be changed or canceled without notice.

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