2010 Special Issue UPDATE
Griffith Observatory is 75!
ON THE EVENING OF SATURDAY, MAY 15, 2010, GRIFFITH OBSERVATORY celebrated its 75th birthday and launched its participation in LA Opera’s Ring Festival LA with an extraordinary celebration at the Observatory.
This unique and highly anticipated commemoration bathed Griffith Observatory in fantastical shapes and lights. As hundreds of guests arrived at the Observatory, they were greeted by opera singers from LA Opera serenading them with songs from the decade Griffith Observatory was built — the 1930’s. As guests reached the landing of the front steps they had their photograph taken with the amazing birthday cake.
Entering through the beautiful north doors, music and refreshments lowed. Progressing to dinner through Gravity’s Stairwell, one walked through a gorgeous northern lights projection. From a string quartet to a jazz combo, music was everywhere. The delicious Scandinavian-inspired food was prepared by Wolfgang Puck.
Light of the Valkyries, the new live planetarium performance with digital laser video and all-dome animation, set to the dramatic strains of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, premiered live in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium. There were even french horns guiding guests to shows, dinner and the evening’s culminating presentations!
The speeches were stirring and relected the importance of Griffith Observatory in our world. Presenters included Congressman Adam Schiff, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Councilmember Tom LaBonge and Edward James Olmos. Come with us as we introduce you to this magical evening …
Diamond Nights - Northern Lights
May 15, 2010
What a thrill to be celebrating Griffith Observatory's 75th birthday — and in such great style! The combination of Diamond Nights
(Griffith Observatory's 75th birthday) and the spectacular aurora borealis or Northern Lights made for an evening we will all remember.
FRIENDS OF THE OBSERVATORY’S most important function is to support Griffith Observatory’s educational mission. Thanks to our very generous contributors, Cosmic Conjunction 2010 will provide funding for thousands of students to visit Grifith Observatory and make their own cosmic conjunction.
Middle-school students will experience the beautiful animated planetarium show, Light of the Valkyries, which highlights the Nordic people’s mythological interpretation of the aurora borealis and our current scientific understanding of those lovely Valkyrie from northern lights. The students will also have a tour of Light of the Valkyries planetarium show, the Observatory and additional information about the role of the Sun in the aurora borealis.
Light of the Valkyries
by Laura Danly, Curator, Griffith Observatory
When Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks Commission President, Barry Sanders, suggested in the spring of 2009 that Griffith Observatory might want to contribute in some way to the upcoming Ring Festival LA, we knew immediately that we had an exciting challenge in front of us.
For the first time, LA Opera planned to perform Richard Wagner’s four-opera marathon, Der Ring Des Niebelungen (The Ring of the Dwarf), and the City was going to celebrate. But what could an astronomical observatory contribute to a festival of the arts?
In May 2010, the Ring Festival arrived, and with it, Griffith Observatory opened a new program in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, Light of the Valkyries. The best-known piece of music from Wagner’s Ring Cycle — and maybe one of the best-known pieces of classical music of any kind — is “The Ride of the Valkyries,” made popular through movies from Apocalypse Now to What’s Opera, Doc (where Elmer Fudd famously sings “kill da wabbit” as he pursues Bugs Bunny).
Valkyries are mythical daughters of Odin (or, in the German, Wotan), the king of the Viking gods, who were dispatched to the battlefield to select the most valiant heroes and bring them back to Valhalla to defend the palace of the gods. (Of course, this meant the end of earthly life for the fallen warrior.)
The Vikings thought they saw the Valkyries descending to Earth in the northern lights or aurora borealis, the ghostly curtains of light that shimmered in their night sky. Aurorae are rarely seen as far south as Los Angeles, but at the northern latitudes where the Vikings lived, they were a common occurrence.
We now know the aurorae are not Valkyries. Aurorae are caused by energetic particles from the Sun that get trapped in the Earth’s magnetic field and focused to Earth’s poles. When the Sun is very active, aurorae are frequent and bright.
Our story, then, would be about the Sun, Earth, aurorae and Viking skies. It quickly became clear that the show would have to be scored with music from Wagner’s Ring Cycle. This was no small task and required complete familiarity with the operas — all sixteen hours of them! This decision set the tone for the whole show. The story, visuals, and performance had to achieve the drama and grandeur expected from a Wagnerian epic. Our small team of only five and
On May 15, 2010 guests participating in the Diamond Nights - Northern Lights celebration saw how well we succeeded when Light of the Valkyries premiered. We invite you to do the same. Light of the Valkyries is presented at 5:15 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. every day that Griffith Observatory is open with financial support from FOTO.
5th-Grade Teaching Hero
Hundreds of teachers bring their 5th-grade classes to Griffith Observatory. Field trips to places like Griffith Observatory are a vital part of every student’s education. And no one can make that point as well as a teacher and a student who have been lucky enough to come to the Observatory for the School Field Trip Program because of FOTO’s Bus Scholarship grant. So we invited teacher Mark Hummer and his student Bailey Magaña to tell their story to our guests. You, too, will be inspired.
MARK HUMMER is in a class by himself. He brings fun and excitement to his students while making them work hard at attaining and retaining important concepts. His joy in teaching and his personal exuberance for his craft are paramount upon first meeting him. It was a “no brainer” to ask him to speak at Griffith Observatory’s 75th celebration. His eloquence and passion was evident in his speech that evening.
— Mark Hummer
SCENE & HEARD: Stargazing at Griffith Observatory
Excerpt from Los Angeles Times, May 23, 2010
Cellphones barely get signals in parts of Los Angeles, yet it seemed appropriate that Edward James Olmos, formerly Admiral William Adama of “Battlestar Galactica,” spent the cocktail hour at Griffith Observatory’s 75th birthday party sending text messages into space.
“The observatory is truly a gift,” said Olmos. “It is one of the most beautiful experiences you can give to children.”
And before dinner ended, Olmos got his answer from space. “Hello, Admiral,” Reisman’s message read. “Life is great up here.”
John Cho, Sulu in the 2009 “Star Trek” film, said he comes often. “I feel a connection because of the movie but more so because of ‘Rebel Without a Cause.’” The 1955 James Dean classic was filmed on the site.
by Cynthia Fox on 5/16/2010 10:38:12 PM
“Saturday night I was up at the Griffith Observatory for their fund raising event...which raises money for school field trips for 5th grade students in the Los Angeles Unified School District.........compliments to everyone in Friends of the Observatory who organized another stellar evening....you can join them anytime...more info at the Griffith Observatory website.....and check out their new Planetarium show....which features Viking legends....great effects and music from The Ring Cycle.......our own Mayor Villaraigosa was there....plus Tom LaBonge.....and Edward James Olmos who praised the efforts of Dr Krupp and the Observatory in inspiring students to learn more about science and the universe....during the Planetarium show Edward received a message on his Blackberry from one of the Space Shuttle astronauts! such is the power of science!! Lucy was there of the legendary Lucy’s El Adobe....and I had the greatest time talking with Gloria Pink of PINK’s Famous Chili Dogs......go and indulge.....709 N. La Brea near Melrose....Mark and Brian’s picture is there....Jay Leno’s and a host of others.....so go by and pick up an Ozzy Dog....hey-Donald Trump even sends his people out to pick up
Griffith Observatory’s School Field Trip Program
Griffith Observatory’s School Field Trip Program has influenced and enlightened so many students over the years. 5th-grader, Bailey Magaña, came to the Observatory this year on a FOTO sponsored Bus Scholarship and was the perfect spokesperson for the excitement generated by a visit to Griffith Observatory. Inviting him to speak at our 75th Birthday celebration was just icing on the cake for all of us!
Did you know?
WITH THE FINANCIAL SUPPORT provided by Cosmic Conjunction 2010 revenues, Friends Of The Observatory is very pleased to present a program for middle-school students that will include the extraordinary Light of the Valkyries planetarium show, a specialized tour and focused activities designed to enhance these students understanding of the Sun as a key player in the northern lights pageant. This program will begin in January 2011 and be open to students throughout the Southland. As we did last year, Cosmic Conjunction 2010 will serve nearly 4,000 deserving students.
A SPECIAL THANK YOU
TO FRIENDS OF THE OBSERVATORY’S BOARD OF DIRECTORS:
Joy Picus, Chair
AND TO THE STAFF OF:
CITY OF LOS ANGELES DEPARTMENT OF RECREATION AND PARKS
AND WITH SPECIAL APPRECIATION:
TO THE STAFF OF FOTO
AND TO FOTO VOLUNTEERS