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Griffith Observatory is located in Los Angeles, Californiamarker, United Statesmarker.Sitting on the south-facing slope of Mount Hollywood in L.A.'s Griffith Parkmarker, it commands a view of the Los Angeles Basin, including downtown Los Angelesmarker to the southeast, Hollywoodmarker to the south, and the Pacific Oceanmarker to the southwest. The observatory is a popular tourist attraction that features an extensive array of space- and science-related displays.


The land on which the observatory stands 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 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 Caltechmarker Professor Chester 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 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 lunar missions.

The planetarium theater was renovated in 1964 and a Mark IV Zeiss projector was installed.

Renovation and expansion

A model showing the new underground exhibits
The 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 high), called "The Big Picture" (, depicting the Virgo Cluster of galaxies; visitors can explore the highly detailed image from within arm's reach or through telescopes 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 skies.
Side view of the Observatory after renovations in 2007
Since 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 planetarium show.

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 Chris Shelton.

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.

Filming location


The observatory was featured in a number of scenes in the James Dean film Rebel Without a Cause; a bust of James Dean was subsequently placed at the west side of the grounds. It has appeared in several movies:


The Observatory has appeared in episodes of the following TV shows:

Other media

  • An image of the observatory is shown in a 2Pac music video, To Live And Die In L.A.. The video pays homage to Los Angeles and its best known landmarks.

Popular culture references

The James Dean memorial at the Griffith Observatory is an important landmark that memorializes Dean's classic movie Rebel without a Cause.

In Bill Griffith's comic strip Zippy the Pinhead, the cynical Griffy can occasionally be found in Griffith Observatory, aiming its telescope down into the valley to afford himself a view of the comings and goings in Hollywood.

In the Marvel series Runaways, the James Dean memorial is often used as a meeting point for the six teenagers, as it is the same distance from all of their houses.

Video games
In the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas video game this landmark is featured and is very similar to the real life Griffith Observatory. The observatory is a playable area in the Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines video game. Also, in the Future Cop: LAPD video game, the observatory and the whole Griffitth Park are the setting for the first mission of the game, on which the observatory was taken over by a villain and the telescopes turned into plasma cannons.

The song Observatory Crest by Captain Beefheart may refer to the location of the Griffith Observatory. The song includes the lyric " up / and watch the city / from Observatory Crest."

A Lego model of this building is on permanent exhibit at Legoland Californiamarker in the Southern California section of Miniland. It has also been featured in the comic strip "Spiderman."In "Macross Frontier," Episode 03, two characters hold a conversation in a future replica of the Griffith Observatory.

In the movie Bowfinger with Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy, film producer Bowfinger (Martin) has been secretly filming a movie without Kit Ramsey (Murphy) knowing about it. The film climaxes as Ramsey is running through the Griffith observatory. The camera crew follows him by filming the shots from the surveillance room, trying to catch him saying the phrase, "Gotcha Suckers!" to end the film.

The Observatory makes an appearance in The Rocketeer as the setting for a showdown between Nazi spies and The Mob.

TV Shows
In the Star Trek Voyager episode Future's End, Voyager is pushed back in time to 1996, to try and correct errors to the time line. Rain Robinson, played by Sarah Silverman, is working for the SETI project in the Griffith Observatory, and notices Voyager in orbit, and tries to contact them with the standard SETI greeting, and eventually helps the crew to recover what was stolen, and escape from earth.


Image:IMG 9136.jpg| The Griffith Observatory, April 2007Image:griffithparkobservatory.jpg|Los Angeles at night, taken from the roof.Image:Griffith Observatory telescope dome.jpg|View of Downtown Los Angeles from the telescope.Image:Griffith Observatory architecture closeup.jpg|Architecture closeup, taken after the renovation.Image:Los Angeles Pollution.jpg|Panorama of Los Angeles and Griffith Observatory viewed from the Hollywood Hills.Image:Griffith_Observatory_entrance_lawn_with_Hollywood_sign.jpg|View of the Hollywood Signmarker on a clear day.Image:Griffith_Observatory_entrance_lawn.jpg|Lawn at entrance and Griffith Parkmarker trails, looking north from atop the observatory.Image:Griffith Park southeast side.jpg|View looking eastward, with south Griffith Parkmarker and Eagle RockmarkerImage:Little Armenia Los Angeles view.jpg|View of the Los Angeles Basin looking south, with Little Armeniamarker in the center.Image:IMG 9141.jpg|Astronomers Monument in front of north door.Image:IMG 9152.jpg|Foucault Pendulum in the center of W. M. Keck Foundation Central Rotunda.

See also


  1. Firefighters get L.A. blaze under control -

External links

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