Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles opened in 1935.
For 72 years the Griffith Observatory has been, in its director's words, "the hood ornament of Los Angeles." Yet the idea for this domed delight nearly fell to earth. In 1912, tycoon Griffith J. Griffith promised city leaders $100,000 for a public observatory. His reputation (he'd shot his wife nine years before) delayed construction until the early '30s. Renovations completed in 2006 include new exhibits on planets outside our solar system and images of distant galaxies.
PLEASE STAND BY
At the Griffith's opening in 1935, cloudy weather forced spectators to wait three nights for a peek through the 12-inch Zeiss refracting telescope.
The planetarium served as a learning center for World War II naval pilots studying celestial navigation and for astronauts in training during the 1960s.
A bust of James Dean sits on the front lawn to commemorate the observatory's appearance in the 1955 film Rebel Without a Cause.
LET THERE BE LASER LIGHT
Laserium, a performance combining laser images and music, made its U.S. debut here on November 19, 1973, and ran for 28 years.
NEXT IN LINE
On a clear night, some 600 people peer through the main telescope.
The Big Picture, a 20-foot-tall, 152-footlong photo of the Virgo Cluster reproduced on a gallery wall, is the largest astronomical image ever made.
Photography by Philippe Renault/Getty Images
This article was first published in March 2008. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.
Griffith Observatory is located on the south side of Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park. 2800 E. Observatory Rd., Los Angeles, (213) 473-0800 www.griffithobservatory.org.