Griffith Observatory

From Academic Kids

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Contemporary view of L.A. from behind the Observatory.

The Griffith Observatory is located in in Los Angeles, California, United States. Sitting atop a hill in L.A.'s Griffith Park, it commands an incredible view of downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood and all the way to the Pacific Ocean. The observatory is a favorite attraction for tourists and locals alike, and features an extensive array of space- and science-related displays. The observatory was featured in the climax of the James Dean film Rebel Without a Cause, and more recently appeared in the movies Bowfinger and Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle. One of its earliest roles was as the palace of Emperor Ming the Merciless in the late Flash Gordon movie serials of the 1930s.

In the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas video game this landmark is featured and is identical to it in real life.

History

The land on which the observatory sits 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 officially opened on May 14, 1935. In its first five days of operation the observatory logged more than 13,000 visitors.

During World War II the planetarium was used to train pilots the skill of 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 was renovated in 1964 and a Mark IV Zeiss projector was installed.

Vintage postcard view of the Observatory.
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Vintage postcard view of the Observatory.

The observatory was closed in 2002 for renovation and expansion with a re-opening date of 14 May 2006. Among the renovations being done is the replacement of the Zeiss Mark IV with a Zeiss Mark IX Universarium star projector.

Exhibits

The first exhibit visitors encountered in 1935 was the Foucault pendulum, which was designed to demonstrate the rotation of the Earth. The exhibit also included a twelve-inch 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 Chosmochron exhibit which included a narration from Caltech Professor C. 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.

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