While many Angelenos were watching the finals of “Dancing with the Stars” on television Monday night, avid star gazers joined together to see real stars through high power telescopes at Griffith Observatory. The launch of a series of events to celebrate the 8oth Anniversary of the opening of Griffith Observatory in 1935 starred the observatory itself, a dazzling display of the fascinating world of astronomy.
Griffith Observatory is also a star of the local museum and education communities. Founded with a gift from industrialist Griffith J. Griffith (not to be confused with film director D.W. Griffith), it is owned and operated by the City of Los Angeles under the aegis of the Department of Parks and Recreation. It pioneered the field of “edutainment” following the goal of being a public observatory to make astronomy available to everyone with an interest. The May 12 event honored the 40 year career of Dr. E.C Krupp, leader of the Griffith Observatory team and greatly admired as a leader of edutainment concepts that have helped make museums even more popular. The gathering of several hundred Observatory supporters praised Dr. Krupp’s projects with musicians and artists to create performances that link astronomy with the arts.
This special event was the latest accomplishment of “FOTO.” That name is short for “Friends of the Observatory” an enthusiastic group of supporters that has helped Griffith Observatory achieve its status as the most visited astronomical observatory in the world. The official visitor count has surpassed the 76 million mark and is well on its way to reaching 80 million as Griffith Observatory celebrates the 80th Anniversary its opening.
Keynote speaker Councilmember Tom LeBonge will also be the guest of honor at the next FOTO outdoor evening gala, scheduled for October 27. His inspiring talk at the May 8 event paid tribute to the Observatory’s mission of presenting planetarium shows of celestial wonder.
Longtime FOTO members Tim and Debra Fletcher reflected on the years of special events and achievements that have made them loyal supporters. Tim recalled an onsite demonstration of the NASA Mars Rover explorer. Debra credited the Observatory with inspiring the Fletchers’ daughter to pursue her current career as a scientist.
Griffith Observatory Deputy Director Mark Pine lauded FOTO as “an indispensable example of a public-private partnership.” An excellent example is the planetarium show. With show ticket prices of just seven dollars and free parking nearby in Griffith Park, this popular program has shown that edutainment can be both enlightening and affordable.