This post marks the conclusion of the California adventure. I went to California last September, but it still took about a year to finish. I didn’t even visit that many places, so I’m surprised it took me this long to finish. Anywho, the last California destination is…
Griffith Observatory, located in Los Angeles, California
The Griffith Observatory is open Tuesday through Friday from 12pm to 10pm, and Saturday to Sunday from 10am to 10pm. The observatory is closed Mondays. Admission and parking are free. It is not easy to reach the Griffith by public transportation, so I suggest you drive or get someone to drop you off. (I had initially thought to take public transportation, and then walk through Griffith Park to get to the observatory, but luckily a family member offered to drive me and my travel buddy, and I am immensely thankful for it. The distance from the public transportation station to the observatory is far and is an uphill hike.) However, if you are so inclined to travel via public transportation, or have no means to a car, then I suggest to visit on the weekends, as the Los Angeles bus system (LADOT) provides weekend bus service from the Sunset/Vermont Metro Red Line station to the observatory.
Part of the observatory is the Samuel Oschin Planetarium that offers 8 to 10 half hour shows daily. Tickets for the shows are $7 for adults. My travel buddies and I caught two of the showings. We saw “Water is Life” and “Centered in the Universe”. “Water is Life” is the only show that admits children under 5, and is about the search for water in our solar system. “Centered in the Universe” takes visitors on a journey through the cosmos (and is the more interesting of the two presentations.) On a side note, the combination of a dark, cold room, and chairs that lean all the way back is way more sleep-inducing then I thought. (I didn’t fall asleep during the shows, in case your wondering, but that combination is very lethal to any visitor not used to the California sunshine and warmth.)
The first exhibit that we saw was the “Ahmanson Hall of the Sky”, which explores our local star, the sun. The exhibit shows visitors how things such as the seasons, day and night, and moon phases, are results of the earth’s orbit around the sun; without the sun, life on Earth wouldn’t even exist. Visitors can also view live images of the sun via solar telescopes. On the opposite side of Ahmanson hall is the “Wilder Hall of the Eye Exhibits” that focuses on how people observe the sky, and how these observations have impacted people and society. For example, ancient people have used their sky observations for navigation, weather prediction, time keeping, and even for keeping track of seasonal changes. One can’t visit an observatory, and not expect to learn about telescopes. Wilder Hall covers the history of telescopes, and some facts on the electromagnetic spectrum. In addition to the above, visitors can learn about the role of California observatories in understanding the universe, and even get a 360 degree view of Los Angeles via the Camera Obscura display.
After taking the stairs to the lower level of the observatory, we traveled through the “Cosmic Connection”, a long hallway containing a timeline of the history of the universe, from the big bang that started everything to 14 billion years later, the present-day. The timeline is adorned with various celestial jewels, generously donated to the observatory by a collector, to highlight the beauty of the universe and our connection to it.
The “Edge of Space Exhibits” focuses on space objects that either fell to the Earth naturally or were acquired through space exploration. Visitors can see meteorites from all over the world, learn about meteorite origins, and see a piece of moon rock brought back from a space mission. The exhibit covers not only tangible space objects, but intangible ones too, such as cosmic rays, which are immensely high energy radiation.
My favorite exhibit has to be the “Gunther Depths of Space”, where visitors can immerse in the knowledge of the universe that is made possible by the space program. Visitors can learn facts about the planets (my favorite space related topic), and can find out how much they would weigh on the various planets using the scales provided. If Earth-related facts are your thing, the exhibit covers how seismographs are used to measure earthquakes. Last, but not least, the exhibit presents facts about the Milky Way, other galaxies, and extrasolar systems. Also, take a picture with the Einstein statue for a memorable souvenir.
Including the two presentations we saw at the planetarium, we spent about 2.5 hours at the observatory. I felt that I didn’t spend enough time at the observatory, I breezed by some of the displays (I enjoy all space related things, so it never seems to be enough time when it comes to these topics), but for the non-space obsessed visitors, 2.5 hours is enough (my travel buddy thinks it’s a decent amount of time). If you are not interested in the planetarium shows, then 1.5 hours is a reasonable amount of time to set aside for the observatory. Since I’m a space-enthusiast, I have no complaints, and highly recommend that everyone drive, hike, walk, or use any other form of transportation to get to the Griffith Observatory, and spend the day learning and pondering about the stars and the universe.