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.
View from a trail in Griffith Park from the south,
looking north.3,015 acres (12.20 km2) of land surrounding the
observatory was donated to the City of Los Angeles by Colonel Griffith
J. Griffith on December 16, 1896. In his will Griffith donated funds to
build an observatory, exhibit hall, and planetarium on the donated land.
As a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project, 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; today, Dr. Ed Krupp is the Director of the Observatory.
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
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
The planetarium theater was renovated in 1964 and a
Mark IV Zeiss projector was installed.
Renovation and expansion
A model showing the new underground exhibitsThe
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
Side view of the Observatory after renovations in
2007Since 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
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
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.
Visiting Griffith Observatory
Admission to the building and grounds of Griffith
Observatory is free of charge, excluding some of the shows for a minimal
price at the planetarium. The Observatory is open five days a week.
There is a small parking lot next to the Observatory. Additional parking
is along the steep road leading up to the observatory. Parking is free
There are photo opportunities and scenery at and
around the Observatory, with views of the Pacific Ocean, the Hollywood
Sign and Downtown Los Angeles. (Note: Pictures of these views are on the
right side of the screen.) Ideal for tourist destination, field trips,
dates and outings with the family and friends.