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Summer 2013 Update
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Summer 2013 UPDATE
Griffith Observatory 2012: A Very Busy Year
by Mark Pine, Deputy Director, Griffith Observatory

GRIFFITH OBSERVATORY PACKED SEVERAL YEARS’ WORTH OFACTIVITIES INTO 2012. It was a year for the record books, though not because of the unfounded claims the world would end on December 21. It was a busy and exciting year. mIn November, the building completed six years of post-renovation operation, after having welcomed more than five million people, two million of whom paid to see a live show in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium.

The Observatory’s fifth new planetarium show since 2006 — Time’s Up — premiered at very successful evening fundraisers for FOTO on May 14, 15, and 29. The Observatory also previewed the new show for more than a dozen members of the broadcast and print media, which resulted in multiple stories, including major, illustrated front page articles in the L.A. Daily News and the Los Angeles Times Calendar section.

On May 20, the Observatory hosted thousands to view the deepest partial solar eclipse in Los Angeles since 1992. Less than three weeks later, on June 5, thousands again flocked to the Observatory to view the transit of Venus across the face of the Sun, the first time this phenomena has been visible here in over 100 years. Amidst heavy media promotion and coverage for both events, Observatory and astronomy volunteers provided dozens of filtered devices for public viewing. The Observatory’s bookstore sold out of Observatory-designed eclipse glasses and solaramas (and was the last retail outlet in the region to have any on hand). Thanks to video equipment provided by FOTO, tens of thousands more people around the world watched the transit on the Observatory’s live webcast from its Zeiss telescope and coelostat.

Hugo Ballin Wall MuralThree of the Observatory’s spectacular Hugo Ballin wall murals (Time, Navigation, and Astronomy) and the Astronomers Monument were among the works of art “brought to life” in July and August in the 2012 Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach. Hundreds of thousands of people attended the seven weeks of programs in the 80th annual staging.

A busy summer was highlighted by three nights of free events celebrating the landing of NASA/JPL’s Curiosity rover on Mars. The  Observatory stayed open late on August 5 for live coverage of the landing hosted by  bservatory programming staff. Held in the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon theater, the program was also broadcast in the Gunther Depths of Space (which was completely packed with people) and streamed live on the web.

As fall began, the Space Shuttle Endeavour made several passes oveApollo XVIIr Griffith Observatory during its tour of Los Angeles landmarks. The crowd at the Observatory was among the largest seen in the building’s history. Media coverage featured the Observatory, including a spectacular picture in the Los Angeles Times.

The Observatory is proud to be one of the very few institutions in the country to mark the anniversaries of the most notable accomplishments in U.S. spaceflight. In February, we presented two free public lectures for the 50th anniversary of John Glenn’s historic flight as the first American to orbit the Earth. We hosted full weekends of free public lectures celebrating the 40th anniversaries of Apollo 16 and 17, in April and December respectively. Most of these programs also generated local news coverage.

The Observatory hosted major TV filming for Homeland (February 22) and the opening episode of the winter 2013 edition of The Amazing Race (November 13), as well as smaller commercial shoots, documentary segments, and student film projects.

The influential travel rating website TripAdvisor recognized the Observatory for its high user score (4.5 stars out of 5). Of the 354 attractions in Los Angeles, the Observatory had the third-highest user ranking, behind only the Getty Center and Walt Disney Concert Hall. A picture of a couple looking through one of the Observatory’s coin telescopes along the south promenade was the cover image for the February issue of Los Angeles magazine, which featured the Observatory as one of “26 reasons to love the city.” The Observatory was named by National Geographic Traveler as one of the top ten “Kid-Friendly Destinations in Tinseltown.” And Google reported that “Griffith Observatory” was the seventh-most Googled phrase by Los Angeles area users in 2010 (the most Googled phrase was “Sigalert”).

We were all grateful, but not surprised, the world did NOT end on Friday, December 21, though the Observatory was prepared for very large crowds prompted to attend by the false claims regarding the Maya calendar and all manner of other astronomical falsehoods. The building stayed open until 12:01 a.m., just to prove all was well. Drs. Krupp, Danly, and Reitzel led a brief but colorful ceremony on the north steps just before midnight with a giant Maya-themed clock, a drum roll, and a gong to mark our continued existence. The Observatory “live streamed” the last hour of the evening on the web.

For all these reasons, 2012 was the Observatory’s busiest year since reopening, with 998,921 visitors entering the building, up 7.2 percent over 2011. Building attendance has increased each year since reopening in 2006. This reflects both increased media and public awareness and the ongoing quality of the building’s operations, programming, and appearance. We are already marking new milestones in 2013, and I hope you will join us throughout the year!

Time's Up

Did the Maya calendar really forecast the end of the world late in 2012? Griffith Observatory’s provocative live planetarium show, Time’s Up, looks at what really happened on planet Earth on December 21, 2012, and immerses the audience in the flow of time — from the Big Bang to the ultimate future of the cosmos.

Tuesday - Friday:
6:15 p.m. and 8:45 p.m.
4:15 p.m., 6:45 p.m., 8:45 p.m.

Welcome New FOTO Board Members

LOWELL ORREN believes strongly in FOTO’s mission to support Griffith Observatory and astronomy education. He is honored to serve on the Board and work with FOTO to further the intellectual and cultural life of southern California.

Lowell grew up in southern California and has lived in Pasadena since 1978. He has been practicing law there with his wife, Tyna, since 2001. Before opening his private practice, which is primarily Probate, Trust, and Estates, Lowell worked for Southern California Edison and Edison International. Prior to that, he was a Senior Economist at JPL, spent time in the banking industry, and has taught at a number of colleges and universities.

Lowell has extraordinary academic credentials as well, with a B.A. in Mathematics from the University of California, Berkeley; an M.A. in Mathematics from Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT; a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Minnesota; a J.D. from Loyola Law School; and an LL.M. in Tax from Golden Gate Law School.

For four years, Lowell was on the Board of Directors of Temple Beth David in Temple City. He has served five years, and continues to serve, on the Board of Governors of the Alumni Association for Loyola Law School.

ETHAN ELLER has lived his entire life in and around the Pasadena area, and he still remembers taking a field trip to Griffith Observatory with his elementary school class. His father worked at JPL in the 50s and instilled a lifelong love of science, science fiction, and astronomy into his son.

Ethan has been working for the Ben B. & Joyce E. Eisenberg Foundation since 1986 as their Property Manager. The Foundation delights in giving every dollar they make to a wide array of charitable causes. In this capacity, Ethan has developed an additional appreciation for architecture and facilities management, and he is thrilled to be working for the incredible art deco building that is our beloved Observatory.

Ethan has also served for more than a decade on the Board of Directors of the Downtown Property Owners Association in the Fashion District,  roviding “safe & clean” services for an 84-block area in downtown Los Angeles.

He is excited to provide his services to support the core mission of Griffith Observatory by making astronomy more accessible to the public. One of his primary goals is to enable as many children as possible to come through the Observatory, thereby firing up their imaginations to become the next generation of scientists, astronauts,astronomers, astrophysicists, explorers, or anything else that they can dream of.

RICH SEMLER is honored to be on the Friends Of The Observatory Board. He describes himself as a lifelong science and science fiction buff. It all started in the 5th grade, when he discovered Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clark, and yes, Edgar Rice Burroughs and the Princess of Mars, too. A used 5-inch Celestron telescope with assorted lenses, and later a star globe, sealed his interest in astronomy, and friendship with JPL and Caltech scientists cemented it all.

Rich’s education is in the liberal arts, but he was also able to include some math and physics in his course load. He attended graduate school and taught English, Mythology and Literature, Jungian Psychology and Literature, and Film History at Case Western Reserve University and at Tufts University. Following his academic studies, he spent 40 years in the business world, with successes that included co-founding the Semler Brossy Consulting Group, of which he is still Chairman. Rich and his firm are advisors to the CEOs and Boards of a cross-section of the Fortune 500, and a number of local southern California companies. Now semi-retired, Rich also serves on the Boards of several not-for-profit organizations and is advisor to and investor in several start-up firms in technology and finance.

Over time, Rich’s love for space and science never waned. In fact, it was fed by years as a consultant to Rockwell International and work with their Space Division, Rocketdyne, and the Rockwell Science Center, visits to the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, and his reading of more than 2,000 books in science or science fiction.

Like Griffith Observatory Director Dr. E.C. Krupp, Rich is fascinated by ancient cultures. He has visited dozens of important archeological sites, including several trips to Egypt, and such wonderful places as Cambodia, Thailand, Burma, Vietnam, Peru, Mexico, Turkey, and Syria.

Rich has fond memories of Griffith Observatory: from movies, visits over 50 years, and from history. He loves the grounds and the iconic building and is happy to help preserve it. But he is especially proud of the educational mission of the Observatory, and the broad reach of its science programs.


Looking Back/Looking Forward
by Camille Lombardo Executive Director, Friends Of The Observatory

“It takes a lot of money to make these dreams come true.”

"We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.“ WALT DISNEY

I love quotes. Other people seem to express what I want to say much more articulately. Given what Walt Disney accomplished in southern California during my youth, I suppose it’s not too surprising he comes to mind when I think about what FOTO did in 2012 and what we are thinking about for 2013…and beyond. Yes, it takes a lot of money to ensure that Griffith Observatory remains a star on the world stage. To raise that money, FOTO keeps moving forward, opening new doors, and trying new things. 2012 was a particularly successful year. You’ve read about many of our accomplishments in previous Updates, but reviewing them as a whole is revealing.

I am so proud of our resourceful FOTO staff, our hard-working volunteers, and our dedicated Board. But I am especially grateful for you, FOTO’s loyal members who understand and support our efforts, and enable us to keep Inspiring the future, one imagination at a time. If you take a look at Griffith Observatory’s accomplishments for 2012, couple them with what FOTO has done to support both the Observatory in its public outreach and the special activities we have organized for its members, then you will see a remarkable litany of achievements of which you, too, should be proud.

Over $600,000 raised for specialized computer hardware and software, sophisticated projection equipment, composer for original planetarium show score, and support staff for Time’s Up show production. These investments enabled Griffith Observatory to develop the Time’s Up planetarium show and to present the partial solar eclipse, the transit of Venus, and the landing of NASA/JPL’s Curiosity rover on Mars not only to the tens of thousands of visitors who made the pilgrimage to the Observatory, but also to tens of thousands more who tuned in for live streaming of the special programming on the web. Many thanks to The Ahmanson Foundation and the Goldhirsh Foundation.

Over $205,000 raised to fully fund Griffith Observatory’s School Field Trip Program that serves over 25,000 fifth-grade students each year. This is an extremely popular program with teachers. This fall, more than 90 percent of the spaces were reserved six days after phone reservations opened. Many thanks to the Union Bank Foundation, the Rose Hills Foundation, the Nesbitt Foundation, Creative Artists Agency, and FOTO members.

Over $38,000 awarded for bus transportation for nearly 5,500 students to participate in field trips to Griffith Observatory during the 2011-2012 school year. These Bus Scholarships support about 20 percent of the low-to-middle income students attending the School Field Trip program. Many thanks to the Carl W. Johnson Foundation and FOTO members.

Over $150,000 was raised from the three fundraising premieres of the newest planetarium show Time’s Up. Over 700 FOTO members and friends saw a screening of the show before it opened to the public. Many thanks to PromaxBDA; Macy’s; Munger, Tolles & Olson; Sobel, Primes & Schenkel; the Ben B. and Joyce E. Eisenberg Foundation; Rusnak Auto Group; Wells Fargo Bank Foundation; Wells Fargo Advisors; Westime; The New Mart; 95.5 KLOS; Talk Radio 790 KABC and many others for their sponsorships and financial support. These unrestricted funds are used to support miscellaneous Observatory requests and needs ranging from the unanticipated replacement of an exhibit projector to thumb drives for data sharing to the DIRECTV license for access to the NASA channel.

Nearly 10 percent of FOTO membership participated in one of the four exclusive, astronomically themed trips FOTO offered to its members: a tour of telescopes and facilities in New Mexico culminating in viewing the annular eclipse just outside of Albuquerque; three private viewing nights on the 60-inch Telescope on Mt. Wilson; and an unforgettable cruise sailing the South Pacific and viewing the total solar eclipse north of New Zealand.

Eight world-class scientific speakers presented to audiences averaging 120 attendees in FOTO’s Cosmic Musings lecture series. United Airlines is the lecture series presenting sponsor for 2013.

A $50,000 investment in media relations generated $6,403,500 worth of publicity and $2,135,400 worth of advertising for Griffith Observatory. If you read, heard, or saw anything referencing Griffith Observatory and the partial solar eclipse, Time’s Up press reviews, transit of Venus, Space Shuttle Endeavour flyover, or the December 21, 2012 Not the End of the World celebration, you have SWPR Group to thank. SWPR is funded by FOTO to handle Griffith Observatory’s hundreds of media inquiries requesting filming access and interviews, in addition to publicizing the various free events that keep the Observatory ranked at the top of Los Angeles’s favorite institutions.

With a deep inhale and exhale, we moved into 2013. The first half of this year was most noticeably marked by the resignation of Melissa Devor, Director of Development. Several years ago, she and her husband moved to Montecito. Imagine that commute! Many thanks go to Melissa for helping with the orientation of Jack McCurley, FOTO’s new Director of Development, who joined us on March 15. He brings FOTO extensive experience in major gift fundraising from his years with the United Way in Phoenix, Arizona. If you haven’t already had the pleasure of meeting him, look for him the next time you visit Griffith Observatory. Please join me in wishing Melissa a fond farewell and welcoming Jack to the FOTO family.

There also have been changes to the FOTO Board. As you know, Kara Knack retired at the end of 2012, but she’ll join us to supervise the annual cleaning of the jewelry in the Timeline of the Universe exhibit. We also bid farewell to Michael Lester, Noemi Cruz Jerry, and Howard Ballon, as we welcome new Board members Patricia Casado, Ethan Eller, Rich Semler, and Lowell Orren. We are sad to report that our dear friend Walter Beck passed away in 2012. It is astonishing to realize that 60 percent of our current Board joined after the renovation and expansion project which totally consumed us for so long. As you can see, we continue to move forward, because as Walt Disney, again, said so well,

"You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place
in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.”

Thank you for making our dream a reality.

FOTO Member Donna Dameron: Of Stars and Dinosaurs

Donna DameronShe logged in over 800,000 miles and 2,200 hours in the air while working in the airline industry. “Just because I could, I flew around the world. The planet was my playground.” She’s hiked the Appalachian Trail. As a volunteer at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, she worked on T. rex and other dinosaur bones. And she has a passion for life and learning as fiery as a comet’s tail!

Who is this remarkable woman? She’s Donna Dameron, and we’re very proud that she’s been a FOTO member for more than 30 years! Donna joined us in 1981, shortly after she and her son arrived in Los Angeles from Denver. It seems that just one snowfall convinced Donna that the weather in southern California was much more to her liking than Colorado. “I noticed that it very rarely snows here!” she says.

In addition to joining FOTO, she also became a member of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. When she came to California, Donna brought with her an insatiable curiosity. “The learning never stops,” she says, “and I hope it never will.”

Donna’s love of the stars and astronomy was fostered by her father, who took the family hiking on the Appalachian Trail, where the night sky shared its sparkling treasures, and to the Hayden Planetarium in New York City. She learned about the sky and went on to learn astrophysics and cosmology.

One of Donna’s other passions is paleontology, an interest she has pursued over the years. It led her to becoming a volunteer at the Natural History Museum, where she worked in the Vertebrate Paleontology lab for 10 years.

Donna DameronIn her more than 30 years as a FOTO member, Donna has had many memorable experiences. She tells us that one of her favorite FOTO memories is “Eating a box lunch under the watchful eye of the then-biggest telescope in the world – the 200-incher at Palomar Observatory. What could be more prosaic than that?” A trip to Mt. Wilson and trips under the leadership of Griffith Observatory Director Dr. E.C. Krupp to observe the summer and winter solstices are just a few more of the FOTO activities that she remembers fondly.

Donna is a welcome and familiar face around the Observatory and FOTO events. Lectures are “where the action was for me,” said Donna. And she has attended many over the years, enjoying the chance to talk to the lecturers and listen to fascinating presentations.

“I think that Griffith Observatory is one of, if not the, most valuable thing Los Angeles offers to the natives as well as our world-wide tourist crowd,” Donna remarks. “There is much to see and learn on a trip up the hill.”


We thank Donna and all our members for their support of FOTO and our mission. You are what keeps us Looking Up!

Join FOTO (or Renew) Now!

A FOTO membership is a great way to get involved with one of Los Angeles’s foremost scientific, educational, and architectural treasures. See. Learn. Touch. Explore. Griffith Observatory is a place to visit again and again. Come up and experience all that the Observatory has to offer — as a member! Please visit or call (213) 473-0879.

Mars, Martians and Friends of Martians
by Sherry Dewane, FOTO Board Vice President

Our most recent Celestial Salon on the subject of Mars in popular culture was another in a series of experiences unique to Griffith Observatory and Friends Of The Observatory. While astronomy is hard science and full of mathematics, theoretical physics, chemistry, and astrogeology, it is also a subject that pervades popular culture.

The Celestial Salon, Mars: Canals to Curiosity, was held on March 4, 2013 and was a wonderful adventure into that intersection of very real science and our collective imagination. Mars took center stage, with our own Dr. E.C. Krupp, Griffith Observatory’s Director, and Les Klinger, world-renowned authority on Victorian literature.

From the beginning of our fascination with the “canals” on Mars, to the various graphic representations of its inhabitants, our two speakers
took us on a journey winding through our stories about Mars. We’ve told stories about friendly Martians, invading Martians, used Martian to sell soap, imagine the future, and explain our place in the universe.

Perhaps because Mars is one of our closest neighbors in this giant universe, we feel a special connection. Certainly, mankind has been telling stories about Mars for thousands of years.

That evening at Griffith Observatory was a special night of storytelling. First, we had the pleasure of two authorities on culture, literature, and astronomy. It was entertaining, funny, intriguing, and educational. The icing on the Martian cake came at the end of a very engaging conversation, when it was announced that two scientists with extensive knowledge of Mars exploration were in the audience: Jim Bell, President of The Planetary Society and Professor, School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University; and former FOTO Board Member, Z. Nagin Cox, system engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory currently working on the Mars Science Laboratory team.

They picked up at the end of a history of Mars in our culture, with the recent landing of the latest rover, Curiosity. We were treated to the latest news, explanations, questions, and more thought-provoking information.

Once again, Griffith Observatory and Friends Of The Observatory created an event that is not available anywhere else on Earth. Our mission is “Inspiring the future, one imagination at a time.” Everyone certainly came away inspired once again.


Cosmic Musings Lectures Presented by United Airlines
by Stuart Bernthol, FOTO Member

Herschel Opens Up the Cool Universe
by Dr. Paul Goldsmith
January 28, 2013

Dr. Paul Goldsmith, NASA Herschel Project scientist, presented some of the highlights of observations by the Herschel Space Observatory that studies a portion of the sky previously not available to us due to the opaque nature of our atmosphere. Observations are made in wavelengths below the visible light spectrum to try to see through the blackness. To carry out these observations, Herschel has the largest precision telescope launched for astronomy and three very sensitive instruments. The instruments on Herschel have opened the door to a better understanding of the role that the Cool Universe plays in the elaborate dance orchestrated by the forces of gravity and accretion in the formation of stars and planetary systems. Among many projects, Herschel has followed the “water trail”—
observing the water molecule in a wide range of sources ranging from giant molecular clouds to protoplanetary disks around young stars to comets in the solar system. It has also identified interstellar components, not previously seen, like O2 and dimethyl-ether.


Is the Universe Lively or Lonely?
by Dr. Carl B. Pilcher
March 18, 2013

Dr. Carl B. Pilcher, Director (ret.) of NASA Astrobiology Institute and NASA Ames Research Center, explored the questions as to how life begins and evolves and does it exist elsewhere by suggesting five interconnected areas of study:

The origin and evolution of life on Earth —
How life first occurred? He reviewed how stromatolites created by cyanobacteria 3.5- 3.7 billion years ago began creating the Earth’s O2 that grew to 35 percent of our atmosphere, now down to 21 percent.

The diversity of life on modern Earth —
New life is constantly being found in environments previously thought uninhabitable: from microorganisms in acidic hot springs, to tube worms and crabs in black smokers in the deep of the ocean floors, to bacteria in the rocks of Antarctica.

The diversity of habitable environments in our own solar system —
Rovers investigate planets, moons, asteroids, and comets.

The frequency of habitable environments in planetary systems around other stars — Thousands of exo-solar planets have been discovered since 1995.

How the building blocks of life may arise from the chemical elements —
Amino acids have been determined to be everywhere in the universe, created in molecular clouds. It is thought that all forms of life, on Earth, came from a common ancestor.


Love, Fear and Greed: Why We Should Go to the Asteroids
by Dr. Martin Elvis
April 22, 2013

Dr. Martin Elvis argued that love, fear, and greed should motivate us to go to the asteroids. And the time has come when advanced space engineering and new astronomical knowledge can be combined to make exploring the asteroids possible and potentially profitable by using the International Space Station and the new NASA push to send humans to an asteroid.

Scientists’ love of knowledge drives them to check out the material our planet grew from, including the oceans, find clues to the origin of life and, maybe, find exotic materials we cannot make on Earth.

Most people fear asteroids as a threat to life on Earth. Those approaching from the Sun are difficult to spot, so we may place a satellite around Venus for earlier detection. Current ideas to deflect potentially dangerous asteroids include: tagging and towing, boiling enough material with lasers to deflect them, and tractoring them with the gravity of large masses.

A few visionaries have long argued that the mineral wealth in the asteroids is huge. Dr. Elvis sees four stages for asteroid development:
1. Private funding of space missions;
2. Prospecting using space telescopes;
3. Towing them into lunar orbit;
4. Legalizing mining operations.


by Shoko Sakai

Date: JANUARY 29, 2013
Subject: FOTO Field Trip

Dear Camille and Ed,

I was at the Observatory on Friday with my son's field trip — Warner Avenue Elementary 5th graders. Wow! I was blown away. It really was a fantastic trip! I've accompanied kids on various field trips including California Science Museum, Getty and LACMA, but the Griffith one on Friday was by far the best. Teachers raved about it, and kids absolutely loved every minute of it. That show in the Nimoy room was soooo well done! I loved the whole script and the way the definition of "life" was presented — using that movie. It was very scientific, yet easy enough for fifth graders. Congratulations, and thank you for making astronomy such a fun, easy-to-understand subject!!

Thank you again,

Shoko Sakai
Assistant Research Astronomer
Dept. of Physics and Astronomy

Inspiring Future Astronauts, Engineers, Physicists, Scientists and Mathematicians: WHO WILL SHE BE?
by Janet Marott, FOTO Member

In a thoughtful panel discussion on Monday, May 20, 2013, three distinguished women talked about how to connect young women to the disciplines in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Marymount High School Head of School Jacqueline Landry, Marymount student Charlotte Starling, and Dr. Laura Danly, Griffith Observatory Curator, were on stage in the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon theater to discuss why women are underrepresented in STEM, what strategies can be used to attract women to these fields, and how to make women successful.

Though the numbers of women selecting STEM careers has improved, there is still a problem. Women now represent over 50 percent of our college population. However, only one in seven engineering students are women; only 20 percent of IT bachelor’s degrees are awarded to women, and other scientific disciplines are similarly underrepresented. Thirty-five percent of university faculty members are women, but only 20 percent of women faculty teach STEM. So, given the nationwide challenge to increase our graduates in these fields that are crucial to research and industry, how do we attract more women?

Jacqueline LandryJACQUELINE LANDRY outlined some important steps, which begin with understanding the underlying issues. There are many myths about brain differences, learning styles, aptitude, and the “Geek Factor.” But Landry claims the solutions are straightforward. First, this issue needs to be addressed early in a student’s academic career. Second, women need “to see it to be it,” so exposure to mentors and successful women in science fields is important. Third, based on her experience in a single-gender high school, Ms. Landry makes the point that single-gender education in the middle school and high school grades has a proven positive impact. Fourth, women become inspired not only by the wonder of science, but also by its power to change the world for the better.

Once inspired to pursue STEM in higher education, additional challenges are faced by women. At the college or university level, the challenge comes from “climate.” The good news is that universities have recognized the need to “change the climate, bring in more women; bring in more women, change the climate.” For example, Carnegie Mellon University has increased its representation of women in STEM from 7 percent to 42 percent in five years by focusing on 1) admission, 2) active recruiting, and 3) climate.

DR. LAURA DANLY, a role model for a successful woman in science, provided a real-life perspective on the difficulties she faced pursuing her doctorate degree in a male-dominated environment. The lack of supportive female mentors was underscored as she talked about both her educational and professional experiences. Relating her evolution from an emphasis on research at the (Hubble) Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore to creating the kind of educational experiences she is responsible for at Griffith Observatory opened a window on the breadth of possible careers for a woman interested in science.

The highlight of the evening was the presentation by CHARLOTTE STARLING, a junior at Marymount High School. Speaking passionately, articulately, and engagingly about how she came to see STEM, specifically neuroscience, as her chosen field and the impact of competing and winning in the L.A. Brain Bee brought the issues alive, especially to the many young women in the audience who are currently struggling with their own “Geek Factor” or wondering what happens next.

We’re Enhancing the Membership Experience!

FOTO is committed to recognizing our tireless supporters who have partnered with us to preserve the excellence and wonder of Griffith Observatory, and we are dedicated to providing outstanding benefits and opportunities — including member exclusive reservations for Samuel Oschin Planetarium shows, parking privileges at the Observatory, and our Cosmic Musings lecture series. Additionally, we offer exciting astronomical opportunities like the Mt. Wilson Observatory telescope viewing.

In the coming months, we will announce some changes to our giving levels and benefits designed to enhance your membership experience. In addition to providing your favorite member benefits, we are delighted to announce the Astronomers Society, an affinity group aimed at recognizing donors giving $5,000 or more annually. These members represent a special community of FOTO supporters who are generously invested in the fifth-grade School Field Trip program and other major programs and projects at Griffith Observatory. Astronomers Society members will receive concierge services when visiting the Observatory, along with backyard Star Parties and invitations to exclusive premiere events including Cosmic Conjunctions and Celestial Salons.

One of these exclusive events is coming this fall! Our Cosmic Conjunction in October will present a beautiful program featuring a collaboration of LA Opera and Griffith Observatory. Astronomers Society members and guests will enjoy an evening of musical performances and a special presentation by Dr. E.C. Krupp. This is just a glimpse of what’s in store for this exciting year.

Mt. Wilson Observatory Trip
by Jack Mc Curley, FOTO Director of Development

On June 1, a group of FOTO members made the trek to Mt. Wilson Observatory (MWO) where we spent the evening stargazing through the hundred-year-old 60-inch Telescope. Boarding a bus in La Crescenta, we headed up the mountain, enjoying breathtaking views along the way. Wildfires burning north of Los Angeles vented large plumes, painting a golden red sunset as we reached the highest peaks. Certainly the drive up prepared us for a delightful evening!

Session directors Gale Gant and Geovanni Somoza greeted our arrival at the Observatory and proceeded with an excellent orientation. Geovanni was a familiar face to many, as he is also a Museum Guide at Griffith Observatory. Gale, a long-time fixture at MWO, provided fascinating insight into the history and evolution of the Observatory. We were thrilled to have such enthusiastic and knowledgeable hosts.

Viewing began in the western sky, focusing our gaze on the double star designated Gamma Leonis. Visible to the naked eye, this brilliant light only appears as two separate stars when viewed through a telescope. Awestruck by our celestial connection, we watched with anticipation as the 60-inch Telescope with its 22 tons of moving parts turned on its massive polar axis toward Saturn. This majestic planet accompanied by its stunning rings and five of its 60 moons shone brightly through the eyepiece. It was perhaps the highlight of our evening.

Our unforgettable viewing had to end early due to ash from the local fire threatening to damage the telescope mirror coating. Our session directors surprised us, however, with a generous offer to tour the neighboring Hooker 100-inch telescope where Gale provided very special anecdotes. It was a remarkable ending to a memorable evening. We thanked our hosts and returned home, inspired by the unending exquisiteness of the cosmos.

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