Planetarium puts Earth in the crosshairs

Earth. It’s our home. We don’t really think about the fact that it is a massive orb of rock, dirt, water and molten lava spinning at about 67,000 mph and possibly in the path of such things as comets, asteroids or meteors. The expectation that the sun will rise and set every day creates a sense of predictability and subsequently, the expectation that tomorrow will be almost the same as today. The realization that we aren’t a lonely little planet hanging in the diorama of an empty little sky changes things.

Target Earth, the new SRJC Planetarium show began Feb. 25 and continues the last three weekends in March. This show addresses Earth’s vulnerability in its orbit and surrounding galaxy using a live multimedia presentation of visual special effects, music and the night sky venue of the planetarium. “It is designed to be educational and entertaining, not a lecture to put people to sleep. Although some people may fall asleep because the music and stars are relaxing,” said Ed Megill, Planetarium director and presenter of Target Earth.

Public shows at the planetarium draw diverse audiences ranging from adults, families, young kids and students not only from the JC but from high schools in the surrounding area. They are designed so anyone can understand the information, from someone with very little science background to an extensive science background, Megill said. Questions, comments and discussion are invited after the show.

Megill promises a night of thought-provoking information about our solar system, past and present. The idea of asteroids hitting earth might be unnerving to consider, but according to Megill, the presentation is based on statistical information. “Anything can happen,” Megill said, “Statistically speaking, we all do well in the stock market…unless you have money in there right now.”

Statisitics show that Earth is hit in a devastating way every 100 million years. The last and most devastating time was 65 million years ago, which is believed to have caused the exctinction of the dinosaurs. This means, doing the math, we are not due for another 35 million years. That gives some time to prepare.

The most recent strike occurred 50,000 years ago and created the Barringer Crater in the Arizona desert. So rather than wiping out planets and entire species, some meteors create giant landmarks for scientists to study and families to visit on summer vacation.

Something to consider: “There is a good sized asteroid coming close to Earth that will pass between the earth and the moon around 2036. Now, there is a one in 40,000 chance that it will hit earth depending on gravity…but the chance is still there,” Megill said. “We know from our 4.5 billion year history that earth has been hit a lot. There’s a lot of stuff out there…so it’s not a question of if, but when.” Space debris hits Earth’s atmosphere everyday, but most of it burns up before reaching the ground. We call the burning debris falling stars.

Admission is $5 for general admission, and $3 for students and seniors (60+). Shows run Friday and Saturday night at the Planetarium in Lark Hall beginning promptly at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.

For questions or more information on Target Earth or other Planetarium shows visit or phone Community Education at (707) 527-4372 or (707) 527-4465.