Griffith Observatory

Los Angeles, California | C.1935

Photo Credit: Rossella Di Palma


When you think of Los Angeles, California, you think of the famous Hollywood sign that has rested on the side of Mount Lee for decades. One of the best vantage points for photos of the sign is the Griffith Observatory, the most visited public observatory in the world seeing over 1.5 million people per year.

3,015 acres (12.20 km2) of land surrounding the Observatory was donated to the City of Los Angeles by Griffith J. Griffith on December 16, 1896 (that’s right, his first and last names are both “Griffith”). In his will, Griffith donated funds to build an observatory, exhibit hall, and planetarium on the donated land. In accordance with his wishes, admission has been free since its opening in 1935.

Griffith’s objective was to make astronomy accessible to the public, as opposed to the prevailing idea that observatories should be located on remote mountaintops and restricted to scientists. This informal approach to widespread education has directly contributed to the Observatory’s success.

In its first five days of operation, the Observatory logged more than 13,000 visitors. To date, more than 81 million visitors have visited the Observatory, seeing the stars on clear nights through the Zeiss 12-inch refracting telescope, making this stargazer the most used on Earth.

During World War II, the planetarium was used to train pilots in celestial navigation, and was again used for this purpose in the 1960s to train Apollo program astronauts for the first lunar missions. While the observatory closed in 2002 for renovation, it reopened to the public on November 3, 2006, retaining its Art Deco exterior.

Written By: Accidentally Wes Anderson

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