An Adventure in the Stars
A Nerdy Places Feature: Griffith Observatory
By MJ Wilke
Look up! The entire experience at the Griffith Observatory gently urges you to look up, beginning with the winding drive ascending to the top of Griffith Park.
“Look to the stars and from them learn.” - Albert Einstein
At the Griffith Observatory, they want you to become involved in science. The mission from the beginning has been to make astronomy accessible to the public; the park and observatory have free admission. And their mission has been achieved and surpassed—they didn’t just make astronomy accessible, they made it obtainable. Visitors don’t just look at the telescope, they look through the telescope. Many telescopes, that is; and there are many opportunities for all levels of interest and knowledge. Visitors don’t just enjoy the inside of this beautifully restored building; there’s even more happening up on the roof and out on the lawns.
The opportunity to view a celestial object through the large Zeiss telescope on the roof terrace should not be missed. There may be a line, but the view is worth the wait. Every day and evening something is happening outside at the Observatory. From skywatching to cosmic events, like the solar eclipse or the International Space Station crossing overhead, a myriad of heavenly events are explored and celebrated. Their website has a calendar of daily activities, weekly sky report, and monthly events.
Inside are exhibits that highlight the universe around us and where we are in that universe—our address. Walk down a corridor that transforms to a calendar each day at noon, see a pendulum in action, watch a Tesla Coil operate, sit with Einstein’s statue and ponder the universe (or take a selfie), view the sun live from the solar telescopes, and watch the universe swirl around you in the planetarium. (There is a small fee for the planetarium tickets.)
“Live long and prosper,” “In search of…”; these phrases come to mind when you think of Leonard Nimoy. His patronage of the Griffith Observatory only added to his legacy of being associated with exploration and curiosity. The Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theater, on the lower level, plays a film about the history of the observatory that Leonard Nimoy narrates.
Arriving before sunset on a clear day provides the opportunity to visit the interior exhibits, view the sun by the three solar telescopes, and then watch the sun setting from the outside Sunset Terrace. As day transitions to night, the lights of Los Angeles as well as the night sky come into view. Peering at the cosmos through the telescopes on the roof and lawns is a fitting end to the day.
To see more Nerdy Places in California or across the country see Nerdy Places.