Before last week, I had never been to the Griffith Observatory. My mother grew up in Los Angeles, Boyle Heights to be specific, and she went to the Observatory on numerous occasions, but as I grew up in Northern California and Santa Fe, New Mexico, I never got to see a Griffith Observatory planetarium show, or anything other than the outside of the building from street level. The new planetarium has been completely redone, from the decrepit chairs, which I heard described in a radio interview as “violations of the Geneva Convention,” to the ceiling, projectors, sound system and lasers. The only feature of the Samuel Oschin Planetarium that remains intact are the original ornate doors.
As you can see from the photo above, the original projector had seen much better days, and it was long overdue for an upgrade. Instead of an upgrade, the Observatory decided to completely replace it with a top of the line Carl Zeiss Universarium Mark IX (below). This new multi-million dollar modern marvel of German engineering, is one of only three in the United States and four in the World, the others being located in the Hayden Planetarium in New York, St. Louis and Stuttgart. It has some really amazing features:
Universarium Model IX projects 9,100 stars with astounding, unparalleled realism: pure white and radiantly bright – even the brightest are seen with their very own individual colors. The visitor experiences a sky that rivals its natural counterpart when observed in optimum visibility conditions. Thanks to the innovative fiber optics made by Carl Zeiss, the artificial sky is ten times brighter than that of the old Hayden Planetarium. And that is by no means all: even faint objects appear on the planetarium dome. Star clusters, gas nebulae and the grand total of 86 different galaxies shine so brightly that they could also be observed with a pair of binoculars.
Some other really cool features of the Plantarium include super ultra comfy chairs, which I almost fell asleep in after sitting for all of ten seconds; a pair of amazing, top-of-the-line laser video projectors that I am told are like nothing I’ve ever seen before; complete surround sound system that has several dozen speakers and serious subwoofers that will really put the bang into the Big Bang. I can’t wait to catch a show on the 3rd of November… make sure you get your tickets ASAP, I doubt they’ll last long!