John Drescher Planetarium - Santa Monica College

1900 Pico Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90405


Santa Monica College's planetarium had its origins in the late 1960's as the dream of Dr. Bruce Young, first Chair of the Earth Science Department, and Gerry Waxman, astronomy instructor. Realizing SMC's need of a planetarium for astronomy education and its potential for service to the community and local schools, they designed a sixty seat theater on the second floor of the newly completed Technology Building. The college purchased a beautiful Minolta MS-8 planetarium projector to project the starry sky onto the theater's 28 foot diameter. Ron Smith served as the first full-time Director of the facility and presented the first planetarium shows in May of 1971.

The planetarium was closed to non-college use during 1977-78.  Jon Hodge was hired as director in September 1979 and public shows and school presentations resumed. The planetarium was again closed at the end of July 1992 for the renovation of the Technology Building and the addition of its 3rd floor. During construction, Friday night astronomy talks and guest lectures continued in a classroom setting with a simple slide projector.

On January 17th, 1994, the Northridge Quake produced over $80 million damage to the Santa Monica College campus. The Planetarium and its Minolta projector were severely damaged and unavailable for three and a half more years. Thanks to the earthquake compensation provided by FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the generosity of John Drescher, Santa Monica College was able to rebuild its planetarium as one of the finest such facilities in California.

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