Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory is in Los Angeles, California, United States. Sitting on the south-facing slope of Mount Hollywood in L.A.'s Griffith Park, it commands a view of the Los Angeles Basin, including downtown Los Angeles to the southeast, Hollywood to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the southwest. The observatory is a popular tourist attraction with an extensive array of space- and science-related displays.

Exhibits

The first exhibit visitors encountered in 1935 was the Foucault pendulum, which was designed to demonstrate the rotation of the Earth. The exhibits also included a twelve-inch (305 mm) Zeiss refracting telescope in the east dome, a triple-beam coelostat (solar telescope) in the west dome, and a thirty-eight foot relief model of the moon's north polar region.
The Griffith Observatory after renovations, June 2007.

Col. Griffith requested that the observatory include a display on evolution which was accomplished with the Cosmochron exhibit which included a narration from Caltech Professor Chester Stock and an accompanying slide show. The evolution exhibit existed from 1937 to the mid 1960s.

Also included in the original design was a planetarium under the large central dome. The first shows covered topics including the Moon, worlds of the solar system, and eclipses.

During World War II the planetarium was used to train pilots in celestial navigation. The planetarium was again used for this purpose in the 1960s to train Apollo program astronauts for the first lunar missions.

Renovation and expansion

The observatory closed in 2002 for renovation and a major expansion of exhibit space. It reopened to the public on November 3, 2006, retaining its art deco exterior. The $93 million renovation, paid largely by a public bond issue, restored the building, as well as replaced the aging planetarium dome. The building was expanded underground, with completely new exhibits, a café, gift shop, and the new Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theater. The Café at the End of the Universe, an homage to Restaurant at the End of the Universe, is one of the many cafés run by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. One wall inside the building is covered with the largest astronomically accurate image ever constructed (152 feet long by 20 feet (6.1 m) high), called "The Big Picture" (http://bigpicture.caltech.edu), depicting the Virgo Cluster of galaxies; visitors can explore the highly detailed image from within arm's reach or through telescopes 60 feet (18 m) away. The 1964-vintage Zeiss Mark IV star projector was replaced with a Zeiss Mark IX Universarium. The former planetarium projector is part of the underground exhibit on ways in which humanity has visualized the skies.
Side view of the Observatory after renovations in 2007

Since the observatory opened in 1935, admission has been free, in accordance with Griffith's will. Tickets for the show Centered in the Universe in the 290-seat Samuel Oschin Planetarium Theater are purchased separately at the box office within the observatory. Tickets are sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

Children under 5 are free, but are admitted to only the first planetarium show of the day. Only members of the observatory's support group, Friends Of The Observatory, may reserve tickets for the planetarium show.

Centered in the Universe features a high-resolution immersive video projected by an innovative laser system developed by Evans and Sutherland Corporation, along with a short night sky simulation projected by the Zeiss Universarium. A team of animators worked more than two years to create the 30-minute program. Actors, holding a glowing orb, perform the presentation, under the direction of Chris Shelton.

A wildfire in the hills came dangerously close to the observatory on May 10, 2007.

On May 25, 2008, the Observatory offered visitors live coverage of the Phoenix landing on Mars.

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