The Griffith Observatory and why you should pay it a visit


Pete Escobar, Staff Writer

Whether you are an astronomy lover that is always looking towards the stars, or somebody who knows as much about astronomy as they do about the explanation of sailing stones, the Griffith Observatory is educationally fascinating, offering a variety of things available to people who wish to cognitively treat themselves. Besides a few paid attractions, the vast and beautiful design of the Griffith observatory is open free to the public every Tuesday through Sunday.

After you have found your parking, which shouldn’t be too difficult considering the parking is free, you will be greeted by the Astronomers Monument and Sundial, which fits well with the aesthetically pleasing nature of the building and lawn itself.

The monument was made to greet visitors when they arrive at the Observatory, and it definitely does. Sculpted on the monument are six of the most famous astronomers:  Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler, Isaac Newton, and John Herschel. To top it off, an Armillary Sphere is located directly on top of the monument. Before the telescope, it was used to determine our position among the stars.

Located directly behind the Astronomers Monument is the Sundial. It allows people to tell time using the sun by using markings on the rings of the dial.

Upon walking through the main doors of the observatory, I Immediately found myself walking towards the middle of the room to gaze down at the reflective and bronze Pendulum. Despite the pendulums seemingly complicated design, it is mainly used to show that the earth does in fact rotate on an axis. It accomplishes this by hanging a pendulum at the bottom of a 40 foot wire.


The pendulum does not move because it is disconnected from the rotation of the earth, so about every 10 minutes, the pendulum knocks down a peg that moves in to the position of the pendulum due to the rotation of the earth. It serves as a fine greeting upon entry of the observatory building, and is but a fraction of what the rest of the observatory has to offer.

The live image of the sun is quite fascinating to feast your eyes upon; it’s not every day that you get to stare endlessly at the sun without the fear of going blind. ”

After enjoying the pendulum, I was trying to decide which room I would explore first. I could visit the Wilder Hall of the Eye Exhibits, which displays information regarding the human history of observing the sky, which can include what types of instruments we have used to observe.

I also had the option to visit the Ahmanson Hall of the Sky Exhibits which show how things like the day and night cycle work, as well as providing exhibits that show us the phases of the moon, how tides are created, as well as how eclipses happen.

For no particular reason, I decided to head into the Wilder Hall of the Eye exhibits first. When first entering the hall, I passed by the tesla coil which was inactive at the time, although I would get to see it in action at a later viewing.

Further into the hall, a replica of a telescope had caught my eye. It was on the table of what now is one of my favorite exhibits at the entire observatory. The exhibit is called “extending the eye”, and everything it offered fascinated me, from Galileo’s observations to the explanation of how telescopes worked.

One of my favorite exhibits explained the use of adaptive optics. With adaptive optics, we can see clearly through the earth’s otherwise obstructive atmosphere; without adaptive optics, we would be unable to observe the universe, because the earth’s atmosphere obstructs the light that is being viewed here on earth, making images appear blurry rather than crystal clear.

I find it so amazing because without these adaptive optics we would be unable to see anything outside of the earth’s atmosphere, and that is where the true mysteries of the universe unfold, waiting to be discovered; adaptive optics were a giant step forward for astronomy.

Other exhibits inside the hall taught how skywatchers used the sky to predict time and the changing of the seasons, taught how different forms of light are transmitted through the universe, and provided a history of California and astronomers search for proper observing positions. After exploring that hall, I made my way to Ahmanson Hall of the Sky Exhibits.


By far the most fascinating exhibit in this hall was the live image of the sun, along with the spectrohelioscope, and the spectroscope. The live image of the sun is quite fascinating to feast your eyes upon; it’s not every day that you get to stare endlessly at the sun without the fear of going blind.

The spectrohelioscope allows us to view the sun in a different way, through a hydrogen filter to be exact. It allows astronomers to observe the surface of the sun and its activity from observation of red light from hydrogen atoms. The spectroscope helps to separate different kinds of sunlight which allows astronomers to observe the different kind of light that the sun shines.

Among the other exhibits shows, and telescopes the observatory has to offer, the Samuel Oschin Planetarium seems to be the crown jewel of the Griffith observatory. According to, the planetarium “features an array of state-of-the-art technologies to support world-class scientific educational programming.”

The planetarium has a star projector that provides viewers with a detailed view of the sky and stars, a fascinating Digital 3 Laser Projection System that provides viewers with a high quality image, and its dome that allows viewers to feel fully immersed with the universe.

The Griffith observatory offers an opportunity to expand our knowledge about the universe, we just have to take it. So, what do you say? Why not switch up whatever Friday or Saturday night you might have with friends or a significant other, and take a trip up to the Griffith Observatory, if you are already interested, you will not regret it.