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Local Planetariums Put the Stars Almost Within Reach

<i> Perry is a Southland free-lance writer. </i>

Planetariums offer Southern Californians the opportunity to explore the moon, the sun, the stars and other celestial landmarks.

“The planetarium is like a zoo, showing you things that don’t exist in your neighborhood any longer,” said John Mosley, program supervisor at Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.

A planetarium, he said, lets whoever is operating it “manipulate” the sky.

“From your own back yard, it’s pretty static. But in a planetarium, we can accelerate time, we can watch the motions of a planet through months and see eclipses happen,” Mosley said.

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Regularly scheduled public programs and special shows are offered at the following Southland planetariums:

* Griffith Observatory, Planetarium and Hall of Science in Los Angeles: The large telescope on the roof is open for free viewing on clear nights (except Mondays) from dark until 9:45 p.m.

The Hall of Science, which features exhibits on astronomy and the physical sciences, opens at 2 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 12:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays and closes at 10 p.m. Closed Mondays.

Admission to planetarium shows is $3 for adults, $2 for seniors 65 and older, $1.50 for ages 5-12. Children under 5 are admitted only to special 1:30 p.m. shows. Laserium shows require separate admission. Call (818) 997-3624.

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The observatory is located at 2800 E. Observatory Road, at the north end of Vermont Avenue, on the south side of Griffith Park, (213) 664-1191 or (213) 664-1181.

* Reuben H. Fleet Space Theater and Science Center in San Diego: Before every main Omnimax film feature is a 10-minute planetarium show related to the film.

Daily show times are 2:30, 5:30 and 8 p.m., with an 11:30 a.m. show Saturdays and Sundays. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for juniors ages 5-15, $3.50 for seniors 60 and over. Children under 5 are free.

Beginning July 17 (and thereafter on the first Tuesday of each month), the 7 p.m. program will be a full-length planetarium show designed to familiarize visitors with the night sky. These programs, led by an astronomer, will precede stargazing with telescopes.

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The Science Center, which has hands-on exhibits for all ages, is open 9:15 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Sundays-Thursdays, and until 10:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The theater is located in Balboa Park, (619) 238-1168.

* Los Angeles Valley College Planetarium in Van Nuys: The Los Angeles Valley College Astronomy Club offers planetarium shows one weekend a month, on Fridays at 8 p.m. and Saturdays at 2 p.m.

Admission is $3.50 for adults, $2 for children 5-16 years. Children must be at least 5 to be admitted. After the show, the public is invited to the observatory to use the club’s telescopes.

The planetarium is situated at the southwest corner of campus between the math/science and engineering buildings, 5800 Fulton Ave., Van Nuys, (818) 781-1200, Ext. 335.

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* Palomar College Planetarium in San Marcos: Planetarium programs are presented the first Wednesday of the month, September through May.

Palomar College is located at 1140 W. Mission Road in San Marcos, (619) 744-1150, Ext. 2512.

* Rancho Santiago College Planetarium in Santa Ana: Hourlong planetarium programs are presented Sundays at 2 p.m. by members of the Orange Country Astronomers.

Admission is $2 for adults, $1 for children 12 and under. The college is located on 17th Street at Bristol in Santa Ana, (714) 667-3096.

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* El Camino College Planetarium in Torrance: A planetarium show is presented 8-9 p.m. every Friday when college is in session, September through May.

After the show, weather permitting, visitors can peer through the 16-inch Celestron telescope on the observatory roof.

Admission is $1.50 for adults, $1 for children 12 and under. The auditorium has only 77 seats, so tickets must be ordered ahead by phone.

The college is located at 16007 Crenshaw Blvd., Torrance, (213) 715-3200.

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* Santa Monica College Planetarium: Two planetarium shows are presented every Friday night when college is in session, September through July.

Planetarium director John Hodge leads “The Night Sky Show,” a 45-minute continuously updated introduction to the changing night sky, offered at 7 p.m. each Friday.

Single tickets to any show are $3 per person. If the weather is clear, visitors may look through the observatory’s rooftop telescope, open from 9-10:30 p.m.

The planetarium is on the second floor of the Technology Building, on Pico Boulevard between 17th and 18th streets, (213) 452-9223.

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