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Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles, USA

September 22nd, 2006 / / Links: Google Earth, Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Virtual Earth / Nearest places

Griffith Observatory is located 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 downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood as far as the Pacific Ocean. The observatory is a favorite attraction for tourists and locals alike, and features an extensive array of space- and science-related displays. The Galactic Gala, The grand re-openning for the Observatory will be held on October 29th, 2006.

The land on which the observatory sits 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 officially opened 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 in its first years.

During World War II the planetarium was used to train pilots the skill of 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 was renovated in 1964 and a Mark IV Zeiss projector was installed.

The observatory was closed in 2002 for renovation and expansion. It will re-open in the fall of 2006. Among the renovations being done is the replacement of the Zeiss Mark IV with a Zeiss Mark IX Universarium star projector.

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 Zeiss telescope, a solar telescope, and a thirty-eight foot relief model of the moon's north polar region.

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 C. 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. The first shows covered topics including the Moon, worlds of the solar system, and eclipses.

The observatory was featured in a number of scenes in the James Dean film Rebel Without a Cause, including the end. More recently it appeared in the movies Bowfinger , Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, GoldenEye, The Rocketeer and The Terminator. Several scenes in the Star Trek: Voyager two-part episode "Future's End" took place at the observatory and were filmed there. In the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas video game this landmark is featured and is identical to the real life Griffith Observatory. It is also apparently where MacGyver in the pilot episode of the TV series "MacGyver" lives. The observatory is a playable area in the Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines video game, unfortunately being ruined by a werewolf and destroyed by fire. A Lego model of this building is on permanent exhibit at Legoland California in the Southern California section of Miniland.

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