Is it too early to Geek out over Comet Ison?

Griffith Observatory doesn’t think so.  Its still some 6 weeks to peak viewing which is expected around dawn November 30- December 14, but Griffith Observatory already has their viewing guide up.

Thanksgiving Day about 11am Ison will make its closest approach to the sun and may be visible, with the aid of special filters when it is close to the sun.  It should be visible most of the day that day.  Wow.  Am like a kid in a candy store over this one.

Now that prime viewing charts have been established it looks like a sunset view isn’t gonna happen with this comet.  Dawn and pre-dawn look to be the best during that peak viewing period.  I had thought about going up the 15 to Stoddard Wells for viewing if it was going to be sunset. Scratch that and now looking at points east, say Joshua Tree pre-dawn excursion and set up to capture the comet in its glory as the sun slowly illuminates the horizon?    Might as well start planning now before everyone else gets the bright idea to leave the city for best views without the encumberance of light pollution.  Who’s in for leaving LA early enough to be in the desert for that with me?  I’m thinking the weekend of 12/7-8 as it won’t have the mad hordes of Thanksgiving Traffic and be right in the middle of the best viewing period?

 

Time Is On Our Side

It's NOT the end of the world as we know it, says Griffith Observatory Planetarium lecturer Kelley Hazen, just the daze of our lives.

I got an invite last week to come to a media preview of Time’s Up, the Griffith Observatory’s new planetarium show, so in between Good Samaritan Hospital’s never-miss Blessing of the Bikes yesterday morning and a long-overdue physical exam that afternoon, I biked up the hill to one of my favorite places in Los Angeles to take advantage of the Observatory’s hospitality and see how and why they decided to counter the anxiety being produced by those doomsdayers dead-set in their belief that the Mayans predicted the world to end this coming December 21 and that it’s so going to happen.

The answers are with a provocative and eye-popping new program in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium that opens on the beach next to the Santa Monica Pier, serene for a few moments until meteors start raining explosively down upon the westside, a huge tsunami closes in and a rogue planet grows larger as it bears down on its collision course with earth — accompanied by flying monkeys, of course.

Inside joke: Pictured during this doomsday scene is Lifeguard Station No. 5150. Since most of the station IDs are no more than two digits, I’m betting this was done in snarktastic reference to the police code that’s basically short for bugged-out basketcase kRaAzEe.

But just when all seems lost, Planetarium Lecturer Kelley Hazen steps in bearing a beautifully illuminated and illuminating hourglass to put a freezeframe to all the apocalyptic nonsense and go on with a visually stunning and intellectually compelling show that counters folly with fact and explores what time is all about.

Continue reading “Time Is On Our Side”

L.A.’s Greatest Landmarks: Readers’ Choice

Griffith Observatory at Night by Jodi

Remember that series on L.A. Landmarks we did a little while back? Some of you completed our survey to let us know your favorite(s) out of the ones we covered. Apologies for keeping you in suspense!

The results are in and the winner, with a whopping 77.8% of the votes is…The Griffith Observatory. It was followed, but not too closely, by The Hollywood Sign and The Hollywood Bowl, respectively.

I, too, love The Griffith Observatory. I can see it from where I work. In fact, I probably took both of the photos for this post from the top of our parking garage. I’m embarrassed to admit that I have not been since it was renovated and reopened four years ago. I really need to do something about that!

We hope you enjoyed our series on what we deemed L.A.’s Greatest Landmarks. We certainly could not, and did not, capture everything so there’s a definite possibility of revisiting this topic in the future.

L.A.’s Greatest Landmarks: Griffith Observatory

That one of L.A.’s most prominent landmarks is perhaps most prominent because of a movie says a lot about L.A.  Way before I had ever been to Los Angeles, heard the term “Art Deco,” or knew the significance of the Griffith Observatory, it was embedded in my consciousness due to the 1955 film “Rebel Without a Cause.”  The Griffith is one of the movie’s “stars,” from the famous knife fight involving James Dean outside and planetarium-watching inside early on, to Sal Mineo‘s death scene at the end.

But after moving here, I discovered that the Griffith Observatory is the Swiss Army Knife of Los Angeles landmarks.  It has numerous uses, and appeals to people for different reasons beyond its starring role in “Rebel” (and its lesser role in “The Terminator“):

1.  The Architecture

In a city full of art deco designs, the Griffith is perhaps the standout.  That may be because the gleaming three-domed concrete building literally stands out, maybe more than any structure in Los Angeles save for the Hollywood signIt has been called “the hood ornament of Los Angeles,” an apt term for our car-obsessed city.  The Griffith, constructed during the Great Depression and formally opened to the public in 1935, can be approached and explored from many angles.  As often happens with art deco structures, I discover some new detail — a nook, carving, door, or viewing perspective — every time I go.  Last time I was there, after our fabulous Donut Summit, I hiked on the trails around the Griffith and enjoyed seeing it from a distance as well.

2.  The Planetarium and Telescope

The Griffith is, after all, an observatory, and many schoolchildren are taken there primarily for this purpose.  The Observatory was closed for renovations, including an underground expansion, in 2002 and reopened in early November 2006, coincidentally, just a few days before I arrived here.  Now it is as popular as ever, with its renamed Samuel Oschin Planetarium redone with state-of-the-art projectors and equipment.  A nifty, industrial-design cafe was added during the redo, subtly sunken below grade on the side, with a long terrace outside.  I happen to think the cafe is a tasteful and tasty addition to the Observatory.

3.  The View

It is perfectly rational to come to the Griffith and not set foot inside.  In addition to the architecture, the views from the Griffith are captivating.  I didn’t realize that L.A. had several separated clusters of tall buildings (downtown, Century City, Wilshire Corridor) until I viewed them from the Griffith.  But then turn in another direction, and you’ll see modern and classic Spanish style homes, Jacaranda trees (depending on the time of year), and usually arid hills that dominate this part of the city.  And of course, the Hollywood sign.  Turn a few degrees more, and, on a clear day, you’ll see the ocean.

I would also be remiss in not mentioning that the Griffith Observatory is nestled near the edge of the fabulous, 3,000 acre Griffith Park.  From picnicking (and Donut Summiteering) to the Greek Theater to the hiking trails, one can easily branch out from the Observatory to enjoy its surroundings.

4.  The Democracy

As befits an important city landmark, admission to the Griffith and surrounding park is free.  Parking is free.  Telescope viewing at night is free.  The planetarium will set you back, but not very much.  On any given day, you’re likely to find a mixture of locals, tourists, schoolchildren on field trips, and a tv actor walking his Great Dane (although you’ll have to be there with someone else, as I was, who has the radar to spot these stars under their baseball caps).  Folks I know enjoy the place at twilight, for hiking or picnics and drinks under the emerging stars.

Ultimately, then, what is so appealing to me about the Griffith Observatory is its versatility.  Angelenos and tourists alike can go to this magical-looking place, named after the fantastically named Griffith Griffith and located on top of the appropriately named Mount Hollywood, to pursue their own wishes, from architectural exploration to hiking to viewing the city from above to star-gazing, both celestial and celluloid.  What could be more L.A. than that?

(See the rest of the “L.A.’s Greatest Landmarks” series here)

Cure for a Donut Coma?

After leaving Sunday’s fabulous and famous Donut Summit, I decided to do some impromptu hiking on the trails near Griffith Observatory.  I learned a few things:

1.  Donuts do not make for great energy food for hiking.  Who knew?

2.  That bite of Stan’s peanut butter-filled donut probably saved my ass.  Not to mention that it was delicious.

3.  All that coffee was a big help too.

4.  Wrong turns = more uphills.

5.  Windy day + big hat = side trips down and up steep loose inclines to retrieve hat that inevitably blows away.
More to learn in Griffith Park, with photos, after the jump