Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Griffith Observatory

My friend Lucy, who moved to L.A. a while back, has taken it as her solemn duty to bring me to a new and weird place every time I visit. So this time, the Griffith Observatory.

This place, oddly enough, is in Griffith Park, which is named after a Welshman named Griffith J. Griffith, who donated the land to Los Angeles in 1896 (tour guides mention that you can always tell where the park is at night because it's the only place in L.A. without lights.) He subsequently became enamored with stars, and commissioned an observatory in 1912, though it wasn't actually finished until after he died. Also of note is that this is where Arnold arrived from the future in The Terminator. That's all the encouragement I needed to go.
You have to drive up long mountain roads to get there, and parking was abysmal on the day we went, so we parked way far down and hiked up. We should have just time traveled.

It's done up in great thirties style, and is built into the side of a mountain, so that from the balcony that surrounds it...

... you can see the whole of L.A. The view is incredible, and we hadn't even gotten inside yet.

The Hollywood sign is right there on one of the adjacent mountains. Just look under the antenna.

Inside is a bunch of exhibits devoted to sky-watching. There is a pretty cool room that's really one big pinhole camera, and projects the sky onto a plate on the floor based on available light. You could move the 'pinhole' around and get different views of the city and sky. There was also, for no reason that I could discern, a huge pendulum. I think it was supposed to demonstrate that the Earth spins. I guess it's for people who don't want to look out the window.

This is a better look at the ceiling it hangs from. Pretty cool art, I thought.

There's also a planetarium, which they built after Griffith's death to fulfill his aim to include a theater where people could see films about the night sky. They hadn't actually invented planetariums until after he was dead, but upon it's invention, they stuck one right in. There was a huge crowd the day we went, and so we didn't get to see it.
And of course, there's a telescope, which is inside this rampart here.

Looks like this on the inside.

They had it pointed at Jupiter that day, I think. I think that's what I saw. It was a faint white dot. Didn't look a whole lot like the Jupiter in the astronomy books. But then, I support a planet's right to craft a whole new look for itself. You go, planet.
This place is great. Go if you're in L.A. ever. I think I actually enjoyed the outside more than the inside. But if you're there and you see Arnold, run.


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