Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory is located 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 that features an extensive array of space- and science-related displays.


The land on which the observatory stands was donated to the City of Los Angeles by Col. Griffith J. Griffith in 1896. In his will, Griffith donated funds to build an observatory, exhibit hall, and planetarium on the donated land. Construction began on June 20, 1933 using a design developed by architect John C. Austin based on preliminary sketches by Russell W. Porter. The observatory and accompanying exhibits were opened to the public on May 14, 1935. In its first five days of operation the observatory logged more than 13,000 visitors. Dinsmore Alter was the museum's director during its first years.


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 telescope, a solar telescope, and a thirty-eight foot relief model of the moon's north polar region.

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. The first shows covered topics including the Moon, worlds of the solar system, and eclipses.

Mad Systems, the Orange, California based audio-visual consultancy and integration company, developed all the audio-visual equipment for the over 60 exhibits as well as the telluria and the magic boxes.

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.

The planetarium theater was renovated in 1964 and a Mark IV Zeiss projector was installed.

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 convert|20|ft|m high), called "The Big Picture", depicting the Virgo Cluster of galaxies; visitors can explore the highly detailed image from within arm's reach or through telescopes convert|60|ft|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.Since the observatory opened in 1935, admission has been free, in accordance with Griffith's will. Admission to the museum continues to be free. 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. [ [ Firefighters get L.A. blaze under control - ] ]

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

Filming location


The observatory was featured in a number of scenes in the James Dean film "Rebel Without a Cause"; a bust of James Dean was subsequently placed at the west side of the grounds. It has appeared in several movies:

*"The Terminator"
*"Dragnet (1987)"
*"The Rocketeer"
*"The End of Violence"
*"Midnight Madness"
*"Flesh Gordon"
*"War of the Colossal Beast"
*"The People vs. Larry Flint"
*"House on Haunted Hill" (1999 remake)
*"Queen of the Damned"
*"Transformers" (2007 live-action film)


The Observatory has appeared in episodes of the following TV shows:

*"Adventures of Superman" (first episode, as Jor-El's laboratory on Superman's home planet, Krypton; some other episodes, as the Metropolis observatory.)
*"Angel" (episode "Are You Now or Have You Ever Been"). [cite web | title =TV Locations - part 7 | publisher =Gary Wayne | url = | accessdate =2007-08-04 ]
*"Beverly Hills 90210" ("Rebel with a Cause", episode 13)
*"Danny Phantom" (The Amity Park Observatory modeled on The Griffith Observatory.)
*"MacGyver" (pilot episode)
*"" (opening pilot episode)
*"Quantum Leap" (Goodbye Norma Jean)
*"Remington Steele"
*"Rocky Jones, Space Ranger"
*"" (two-part episode "Future's End")
*"The Man From U.N.C.L.E"
*"The New Adventures of Wonder Woman" between 1977 and 1979.
*"The Simpsons" (duplicated as Springfield's Observatory)
*"The Wonder Years".

;Other media

*Was a filming location for the music video for "Rush Rush" by Paula Abdul which starred Keanu Reeves and was directed by Stefan Würnitzer. This video was based on Rebel Without a Cause.

Popular culture references

;ComicsThe James Dean memorial at the Griffith Observatory is an important landmark for the teenage superheroes of the Marvel Comics series "Runaways".

In Bill Griffith's comic strip Zippy the Pinhead, the cynical Griffy can occasionally be found in Griffith Observatory, aiming its telescope down into the valley to afford himself a view of the comings and goings in Hollywood.

;Video gamesIn the ' video game this landmark is featured and is very similar to the real life Griffith Observatory. The observatory is a playable area in the ' video game, unfortunately being ruined by a werewolf and destroyed by fire.

;MusicThe song "Observatory Crest" by Captain Beefheart may refer to the location of the Griffith Observatory. The song includes the lyric " up / and watch the city / from Observatory Crest."

;OtherA Lego model of this building is on permanent exhibit at Legoland California in the Southern California section of Miniland. It has also been featured in the comic strip "Spiderman." [] In "Macross Frontier," Episode 03, two characters hold a conversation in a future replica of the Griffith Observatory.


ee also

* Dinsmore Alter
* Ed Krupp
* Laura Danly
* Don Dixon (artist)

External links

* [ Griffith Observatory Home Page]
* [ Friends Of The Observatory]
* [ collection of articles on the observatory] at the LA Times
* [ Live Lecturers sent into a Black Hole] by Danny King at Bloomberg News
* [,0,3677082.story?coll=la-opinion-rightrail/ Make Astronomers the Stars] Op/Ed by Margaret Wertheim in the LA Times
* [ Acting Up at Griffith Observatory]
* [ Griffith Observatory: Entertainment, Education or Both?]
* [ Light Pollution in L.A. Area]
* [ Review of "Centered in the Universe"]
* [ The Big Picture Website]
* [ LACMTA Video of the Griffith Observatory]
* [ Article about "Centered in the Universe" at Arroyo Monthly]
* [ Griffith Park Observatory photographed from a flying helicopter.]
* [ Goodbye Griffith (Laserium leaves the Observatory)]
* [ Travel Video about Griffith Observatory]


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