The Griffith Observatory is a planetarium, and an exhibit hall located in Los Angeles’s Griffith Park. It features several astronomical displays and telescopes in the Hollywood Hills in the Los Feliz district of the city. The Observatory was built on land donated by Griffith J. Griffith in 1896. Griffith was a Welsh-born philanthropist and mining tycoon, who wanted to give the public access to a state-of-the-art observatory, so it was free of charge to visitors. He felt common people should be able to enjoy the wonders of the universe, and not be solely for the scientific community.
Griffith donated 3,015 acres of land specifically to house the observatory that opened on May 14, 1935. During the first five days after the opening, the planetarium averaged more than 13,000 visitors a day. One of the major attractions was the Foucault Pendulum that is designed to show the earth’s rotation and the Zeiss reflecting telescope. The observatory has a striking view of Los Angeles and Hollywood, and the Pacific Ocean can be seen on clear days from there.
In 2002 the planetarium was subjected to a $93 million renovation and expansion, which closed the museum for four years. After it reopened in 2006, the facility expanded underground with new exhibits, a cafe, a gift shop, and a theatre. The Wilder Hall of the Eye section concentrates on the astronomical aspect of the observatory. It is where people can view the stars through the observatory’s telescope, and features an interactive exhibit that is very popular. The Ahmanson Hall of the Sky is another popular attraction for viewing images in the night sky that are visible to the naked eye. The observatory frequently stages viewing nights when the public is invited to bring their own telescopes. It is open daily, and remains free of charge.