Saturday, August 25, 2012

Griffith Observatory Public Star Party

Saturday, August 25, 2012
My Cost: FREE!

2800 East Observatory Road
Los Angeles, CA 90027

We took a few days off from the kids' outings so that mommy could do some trombone playing with my friend's band: Sangre Nueva. We did a show last night backing up singer Frankie Ruiz Jr. Here's a picture we took out front that got snazzily turned into a promo photo:

Today I wanted to get back out on the town, and was sooooo happy that Omar is finally back from his pool tournament!!! He was on a team that qualified for the APA National Team Championships, and they finished 45th out of 850 teams, so I think that's pretty awesome! But me and the kids sure did miss him the six days that he was gone! So today we headed out for an outing with the whole family, plus our beautiful niece Kelly.

Griffith Observatory

When I first moved to Los Angeles in 2005, the Griffith Observatory was under the last stages of a four-year renovation. When it reopened in November of 2006, there was a lot of excitement all around the city, but I didn't quite "get it," as I had never been there. Today was only my second visit (I came here once on a solo exploration about five years ago,) and I am only starting to scratch the surface of why people were so excited. This truly is a public treasure! Admission to the building and grounds is always free. Tickets must be purchased for shows in the Planetarium, but it's a lot less than you would pay for an IMAX movie.

Dubbed as the most visited public observatory in the world, the Observatory is a beautiful and iconic part of Los Angeles, and one of the best places to enjoy panoramic views of the Southland, from Glendale, to downtown, to the ocean, and even the Hollywood sign!

Behind Kelly is the sign. Click to see an enlarged view that will let you actually find it!
It first opened in 1935, and the building itself is built, to quote the brochure, "With Art Deco, Moderne, Greek Revival, and Beaux Arts architectural influences." (If you are not familiar with these types of styles or aesthetic movements, may I recommend watching Woody Allen's award-winning 2011 film, "Midnight in Paris.") If you don't like views, and you don't like observatories, just come to see this beautiful building! Seriously, it's gorgeous! (I feel like my pictures below don't really do it justice, so there is a whole page on their website devoted to the exterior features here.)

An exterior shot taken on an evening hike with my little
brother Justin back on October 22, 2007. It still looks the same.

Sorry this pic is more parking lot than observatory. I was trying to show how
big the crowds were - today was a monthly Public Star Party day!
Omar is carrying Vivi off to see some views!

A beautiful door. I loved it!

Inside the Central Rotunda - murals painted by Hugo Ballin in 1934-35. 
The ceiling mural depicts Atlas, the four winds, planets as gods, and the constellations of the Zodiac.

A peek of the view looking past the Planetarium dome.
The front lawn and Astronomers Monument.

What you find inside the building is just as exceptional, and you should know that looks can be deceiving - it's a lot bigger inside than it looks! There are two main floor exhibits (the Hall of the Eye and the Hall of the Sky,) on either side of the Foucault Pendulum, which is a 240-pound brass ball that swings constantly in a back and forth motion while the earth rotates beneath it. (No, it's not the pendulum ball swinging around in a circle, it's the giant ball we're all standing on that's spinning!)

Foucalt Pendulum in action (the back of Vivi and Omar's heads at the bottom)
The Hall of the Eye Exhibit.
Downstairs is a very large split-level exhibit space named "Edge of Space," and "Depths of Space." You can learn about meteorites, planets, stars, solar systems, galaxies, gravity, and take your picture with an Einstein statue!

Uncle Albert is 'splainin' something to Vivi (who looks like she totally understands.)
Models of the planets show the relative size of each. FYI, for a model of their relative distances from the sun, there is one embedded in the sidewalk in front of the Observatory's front steps.
Kelly is using the in-floor scale to see how much she weighs on Saturn.
We didn't even make it to the new Gottlieb Transit Corridor, which I understand shows how the movements of the sun, moon and stars across the sky, (well, we know the sun and stars only appear to be moving as the earth rotates, but you know what I mean,) shaped our current reckoning of time and the calendar. But I think these concepts are a little outside the grasp of our toddler and infant!

One last thing that we did enjoy was the Zeiss telescope under the east dome. One of the things that makes the Griffith Observatory so popular, is that it is a place where a high quality telescope is available to the public. We didn't get to look through it, but we did get to see it, and listen to an explanation of how it works, (it can track an object across the sky all by itself using a tiny motor!), and Kelly even got to push the button to rotate the dome roof! (There is only one narrow strip that opens in the roof, so if need be, the roof can be rotated to expose the section of sky you need.)

Omar, Vivi and Kelly with the telescope in the background.
The telescope dome.

Proof that even the telescope is free to see!

The telescope itself. For an idea of how big it is, this telescope is about three times as tall as
the man explaining it to us, (who is standing underneath it out of the frame.)
The tube is 16-feet long, and the entire thing weighs 9,000 pounds!
All in all I'd say the Observatory is a must-see, (and I need to not wait so long before my next visit!) If you've got curious kids, they'll love it. If they're not that curious, this might encourage them to be more so. And if nothing else, you can always take cool pictures like this for your Facebook page:


Do be aware, however, that if you come on a busy day, there may not be parking available in the lot, and you will have to park along the street. This may leave you with a significant amount of uphill hiking to do to reach the Observatory! Today being a Public Star Party day, we were very lucky to find a spot in the lot. Cars were lining the street all the way down the hill for I would say at least a mile. 

No comments:

Post a Comment