Mars in our Night Sky - Fall 2020

Mars is close to Earth in the fall of 2020, which results in some interesting things to observe in the night sky. Get outside and see the Red Planet first hand. The next time that Mars and Earth will be in a position to observe events like this will be in December 2022.

  • Closest Approach: Tuesday, 10/6/20, 10:19 AM EDT - Mars is closest to earth.
  • Opposition: Tuesday, 10/13/20 7:20 PM EDT - The Sun and Mars are on exact opposite sides of Earth.
  • Moon-Mars Close Approach: 10/28-10/29/20 - After dark on 10/28, the Moon will continue getting closer to Mars into the early morning hours of 10/29. After dark on 10/29, the Moon will be close to Mars but getting further away through the night.
  • Retrograde Motion: 9/4/20-11/2/20 - Mars appears to move “backward” in our night sky. This occurs only when Mars and earth are closest together. Earth “catches up” to Mars and passes the Red Planet when their orbits are close together. To see this, you will need to note the location of Mars against the backdrop of stars.  You could compare this every few days to see the retrograde motion.

Learn more about Mars in fall 2020

Ruth Patrick Science Education Center Open

We are happy to report that the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center is open. We are taking care to follow best practices in addressing COVID-19 concerns. We are planning schedules for student programs throughout the 2020-21 academic year.

In recognition that schools might not be able to transport students to us, we are making alternative plans to engage students in our programs. We will contact teachers who submitted program requests as we are working on scheduling over the summer.

Come See Our Digistar 6 Planetarium System!!

The DuPont Planetarium exists to inspire others to explore the majesty of the heavens. Visitors age 4 and up attend public shows presented every Saturday. We encourage our visitors to reserve seats in advance. If you make a reservation, please arrive no later than 20 minutes before the show starts. All unclaimed reservations will be released 10 minutes prior to the show.

See our public show schedule

The DuPont Planetarium, housed in the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center at the University of South Carolina Aiken, consists of 45-seats, a 30-foot diameter tilted aluminum dome by Astro-Tec, with a Digistar 6 planetarium projection system from Evans & Sutherland.

The DuPont Planetarium opened in September 1995 with a Digistar II system and Spice automation system by Sky-Skan. The planetarium conducts K-12 school programs, general-interest level programs for the public, specialized programs for university classes, and private shows for parties and other events.

Virtual In-home Planetarium (VIP) Experience

We have partnered with Evans & Sutherland, the world's leading producer and distributor of full-dome planetarium shows, to offer the community the Virtual In-home Planetarium (VIP) Experience. We are excited to offer this VIP Experience that allows everyone to view free streaming shows from the comfort of anywhere there is an internet signal. 

Learn More about VIP

Astronomy and More

While most DuPont Planetarium programs focus on astronomy and encourage exploration of the night sky, some shows focus history and other science areas. All shows involve an enthusiastic presenter who is eager to share the majesty of the heavens with visitors. Digistar Special Effects shows entertain by using the power of the Digistar 6 system to create shapes that dance across the dome to lively music.

Student Programs

Each year, thousands of K-12 school children visit the planetarium during the school day for exciting programs that meet science standards. These programs are reserved and scheduled like other student programs at the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center. We also conduct specialized programs for university classes.

RPSEC Observatory

The RPSEC Observatory (on the roof of the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center) is open after public shows on Saturday evenings, weather permitting. The Bechtel Telescope housed in the RPSEC Observatory provides views of planets, nebulae and other celestial objects.

Private Programs

Private shows are arranged for educational groups such as scouts, preschools and colleges and for fun events such as birthday parties and company celebrations.

To schedule a private showing for your group, see the Plan Your Visit section.