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Fall 2014 Update
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Fall 2014 UPDATE
Getting the Youth of Today Inspired About the Space of Tomorrow
by Zach Oschin, FOTO Member

Space Shuttle - Friends of the ObservatoryMy name is Zach Oschin and I am a 16-year-old living in Westlake Village. I have always had a love for space and the opportunities it holds, and since I was about 8 I have attended the FOTO Cosmic Musings Lectures at the Observatory. Now, I didn’t always understand the complex equations related to astrophysics that were being presented, but growing up in that environment really expanded my interest in the universe around us.

A few months ago, a company called XCOR Space Expeditions, a subsidiary of XCOR Aerospace (then called SXC), came to the Observatory and spoke about their activity in the commercial space tourism market, the spacecraft they would be using (the XCOR Lynx), and their goals for the future. I was so intrigued by the possibilities of commercial space tourism and exploration, and the innovative designs of XCOR Aerospace that I got the business card of the person who spoke and emailed them the next day. I expressed not only how amazed I was with the company in general, but I also inquired about the work being done to get youth like me involved in space exploration. I realized that as the Space Shuttle program ended, my generation lost the only connection to space we ever had. We never saw someone go to the Moon and we didn’t get to experience that period of time when the whole world was enthralled with the space race. I expressed in my email my desire to help get kids excited about space again so that we not only have an educated generation for the future, but also so that there is a customer base for the commercial space market in the coming decades.

This email was forwarded to the parent company which designs and builds Lynx, XCOR Aerospace. XCOR’s Director of Payload Sales and Operations, Khaki Rodway, contacted me and expressed how education was a top priority for them as well. I visited their headquarters in Mojave, spoke about my ideas, and we discussed how we could better reach the youth of today.

Lynx Flight Profile - Friends of the ObservatoryNormally, at any other company, none of this would have been possible for a 16-year-old, but I soon learned that XCOR isn’t like any other company. It is a community with shared interests and goals that is working together to bring space exploration to everyone and wanted to hear my ideas as well. XCOR’s Lynx suborbital spacecraft distinguishes itself from other craft in many ways, but what is most pertinent to my efforts is the room on board for experiments, or payloads. Lynx seats two people, one pilot and one passenger (known in our industry as a “spaceflight participant”), but there are locations for experiments that give students the opportunity to design and create their own research projects to send into space at a fraction of what it used to cost to do so. Just to give you an idea of what kinds of experiments will fly on Lynx, investigators will study the Earth’s atmosphere, the effects of microgravity on plants and asteroids, andlook at stars and planets while in flight.

After discussing all of these possibilities and figuring out the logistics of employing a 16-year-old at a spacecraft hangar, I now hold the position of Youth Engagement and Outreach Associate at XCOR and am working to educate and excite my peers. This summer I am designing media and promotional materials aimed at getting kids interested in space. I will then be bringing these items, along with a presentation that I give, to schools around Los Angeles, both public and private, to talk to students (and their teachers) about the history of space travel, the new emerging commercial market, what XCOR does, and how we as kids can get involved and start exploring the rest of our universe.

The desire to explore the unknown is one that seems to have escaped my generation. We are so focused on ourselves and our technology that we often fail to look at the world around us, let alone consider what may be outside of our atmosphere. As a student and a teenager who loves space, I believe that by initiating the conversation about the possibilities of exploration with people my age we can move towards creating a generation that wants to look up from their smartphones and see the beauty and opportunity space holds. I am currently scheduling presentations at schools around L.A. for the coming school year, so if you or anyone you know might be interested in having me visit, feel free to email me at You can also visit our website to learn more about the company and Lynx specifically.

Our guest writer, Zach Oschin, is the great-grandson of Samuel and Lynda Oschin. The late Mr. Oschin, whose name graces the Griffith Observatory’s Samuel Oschin Planetarium, was a noted philanthropist whose generous support of many important causes and interests, including astronomy, is carried on today by the Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Oschin Family Foundation.

FOTO Executive Director's Report
by Camille Lombardo, FOTO Executive Director


Camille Lombardo FOTO Executive DirectorOn November 2, 2006, the first visitor arrived by shuttle bus at the renovated and expanded Griffith Observatory and saw a show in the new Samuel Oschin Planetarium. It is a credit to the quality of the equipment and technology spec’d out 10 years ago that crowd-pleasing programs continue to be produced. But a decade is several technological lifetimes, so, before Griffith Observatory once again becomes “loved to death,” FOTO has launched The 80th Anniversary Initiative. This is a $5,000,000 campaign designed to ensure continuing excellence at Griffith Observatory.

The 80th Anniversary Initiative has several major goals for which aggressive fundraising is underway. The goals include continued funding for the free School Field Trip program and free Bus Scholarships for student visitors; the launch of an archiving project to ensure that the Observatory’s nearly 80-year-old collection of materials is preserved; and, most significantly, the acquisition of the hardware, software, and expertise required to produce a new state-of-the-art, live show for the Samuel Oschin Planetarium that will continue to exceed the high public expectations set here in the center of the entertainment industry.

Several generations of technological development have passed since specifications for the current projection system were identified in 2004. So, a Griffith Observatory team, including Director Dr. E.C. Krupp, Curator Dr. Laura Danly, Program Supervisor Patrick So, and yours truly, traveled to the Fiske Planetarium at the University of Colorado Boulder; the Einstein Planetarium at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.; and the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond. Each of these has a dome about the same size as ours with a new 8K digital projection system. But each is different enough to require a separate visit. At the time of writing this, no final decision has been made. What I can tell you with certainty, though, is that when Griffith Observatory premieres its next new, live planetarium show, it will be SPECTACULAR!

Often FOTO operates behind-the-scenes to maintain excellence at our beloved Observatory. In May, FOTO Executive Committee Board member Chris Laib and I presented data to the Los Angeles City Council Budget Committee that resulted in the reinstatement of critical funding to allow the Observatory to remain open on Tuesdays!

On a different note, Jack McCurley, FOTO’s Director of Development, joined The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ suicide prevention hotline, as their Associate Director of Development on September 8. Jack has been volunteering with this organization since he moved to Los Angeles. We all wish him the best as he pursues this important work.

PLAN TO JOIN US ON OCTOBER 27, 2014 for a memorable evening honoring one of Griffith Observatory’s best friends, Councilmember Tom LaBonge. We’ll gather at sunset to thank the Councilmember for his 40 years of service to the City of Los Angeles.


A Must-See: The New "FOTO Alcove"

FOTO AlcoveStop by and check out the new “FOTO Alcove” in the Sunset Portal at Griffith Observatory. Our beautiful new flat-panel display recognizes Astronomers Society and major donors and provides information about the School Field Trip program and Bus Scholarships.

2016 Total Solar Eclipse

2016 Total Solar Eclipse - Friends of the ObservatoryMARCH 1 - 17, 2016 - ROUND-TRIP CRUISE Aboard Holland America’s MS Volendam from Singapore to Indonesia with stops in Jakarta, Borobudur, Probolinggo, Ujung Padang, Makassar Strait (location of Solar Eclipse), Komodo, Lembar, and Bali. For more information, visit: Or contact Camille Moore at Montrose Travel: (818) 553-6483

A Glimpse from the Dome
By Mark Pine, Deputy Director, Griffith Observatory

When you support Friends Of The Observatory, you support Griffith Observatory. And when you support Griffith Observatory, you help us keep the Observatory a vital part of the landscape of southern California. Here’s a Glimpse of how that is working…




Griffith Observatory is recognized as a top visitor destination in the region.

We are featured on the cover of the latest issue of the Los Angeles Visitors Guide, as well as the cover of August’s L.A. Parent magazine. And KCBS-TV named the Observatory the top L.A. photo spot for engagements.

For the fourth consecutive year, Griffith Observatory was awarded a Certificate of Excellence by the influential TripAdvisor travel website. The recognition signifies the Observatory “has consistently earned outstanding feedback from TripAdvisor travelers.” The Observatory is the fourth highest-rated (out of 374) attraction in the region.




Earlier this year, we hosted two fascinating, free public activities in partnership with NASA: “Driven to Explore” was a special walk-through exhibit about the International Space Station.

“An Astronaut’s Perspective,” with NASA astronaut Mark T. Vande Hei (Colonel, U.S. Army) who discussed his selection, training, and preparations for his first flight in space, a six-month assignment on the International Space Station.




Our 2013-14 fifth-grade School Field Trip program was a great success. Since this program resumed in spring of 2007…

187,000 students and 22,000 teachers and chaperones from over 3,000 schools participated in the program. Roughly 27,000 students attend each year, nearly half of them from LAUSD. We held over 700 total program sessions (roughly 95 per year).

SPECIAL THANKS TO FRIENDS OF THE OBSERVATORY and its members and donors who funded the School Field Trip program for the sixth year and enabled the program to be free. FOTO has committed over $1 million to the School Field Trip program since 2008. The Observatory is extremely grateful for its Friends!

Paper or Digital? You Decide!

FOTO UpdatesWe love bringing the FOTO Update newsletter to our members throughout the year, and we hope you enjoy reading about all the terrific things going on with FOTO and Griffith Observatory. As you may know, we post Update on our website when it’s published, in addition to mailing the printed version to our members and other friends. Because we are committed to environmental and financial responsibility and also understand the changing nature of communications delivery, we would like to hear from you. If you’d prefer not to receive a printed copy of Update and would rather simply access it and download it from our website, please let us know by sending an email to Then, when publication of an issue is complete and the newsletter is posted, we’ll send you an email letting you know it’s up and available. If we don’t hear from you, we’ll continue to mail your hard copy to you.


Two Shining Stars, One Stellar Evening
Stellar Evolution Honoring Griffith Observatory and E.C. Krupp

Stellar Evolution - Friends of the ObservatoryOn May 12, 2014, we had the honor of recognizing two of the most stellar icons in Los Angeles. As the Sun set gloriously over the Pacific Ocean, over 200 distinguished guests gathered to pay tribute to the stars of the evening: GRIFFITH OBSERVATORY, which is celebrating its 80th year, and DR. E.C. KRUPP, who marks his 40th anniversary as the Observatory’s director.

The highlight of the festive evening was the arrival of Dr. Krupp in his very own iconic form of transportation, his beloved 1968 Camaro. Known for his wit and his appreciation of the dramatic entrance, Dr. Krupp emerged from the Cosmic Camaro in an authentic Apollo 11 space suit (courtesy of Global Effects Inc.), complete with helmet. Very appropriate for the occasion, considering he has put enough miles on the car to drive to the Moon and back!

It was a spectacular evening, with entertainment by the Los Angeles Jazz Quartet, and a special appearance by members of LA Opera’s Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artists, who sang Happy Birthday in honor of Dr. Krupp’s and Griffith Observatory’s extraordinary milestones.

Griffith Observatory Cake - Friends of the ObservatoryEC Krupp - Stellar Evolution - Friends of the ObservatoryAND WHAT WOULD A PARTY BE WITHOUT A CAKE? We had three cosmically themed cakes, each commemorating an iconic feature of the Observatory. Our guests voted for their favorite, with the Observatory cake winning the popular vote. A sweet time was had by all as the cakes were thoroughly enjoyed after the votes were counted! A big shoutout to Joanie and Leigh’s Cakes for their delectable and inspired confections.

On hand to honor Dr. Krupp and Griffith Observatory on this special occasion were notable dignitaries, including Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge, and, on video from his office in Washington, Congressman Adam Schiff. Event co-chairs Joy Picus, FOTO Board member and chair and Patricia Casado, Board member and secretary; Observatory Deputy Director Mark Pine; FOTO Executive Director Camille Lombardo; and many members of the FOTO Board added their congratulations.

Thanks to those who helped make Stellar Evolution such a great success!

OUR SPONSORS: Angel City Brewery, BevMo!, Barefoot Wine & Bubbly, Patricia Casado, Gelson’s, Kohl’s, Chris Laib, Macy’s, Paramount Pictures, Sobul, Primes & Schenkel, Union Bank, and United.

Members Enjoy Local FOTO Mixers

Friends Of The Observatory likes to find new ways to engage our members. So this year we held two local mixers to bring members together in casual settings to get to know each other and share food, fun, and friendship. The mixers were a great way to share in the FOTO experience, especially for members who, due to schedules or location, find it hard to get to Griffith Observatory where most of our events are held.


South Bay members enjoyed our first mixer, held on March 13, at the Blue Water Grill in Redondo Beach. On June 4, we gathered together on the Westside at Border Grill in Santa Monica. At both events, guests had the opportunity to mingle, chat, and share experiences. In addition to great food, the evenings also featured opportunity drawings for terrific prizes. Our Executive Director, Camille Lombardo, and FOTO Board members were on hand to greet guests and update members on FOTO’s plans for the rest of the year.

These evenings were such a great opportunity to reach out to FOTO members, and we’d like to thank all who joined us! Our thanks also to the Kohl’s community volunteers who assisted at these events and helped make the evenings so successful. And to our sponsors, our sincere gratitude for your help in enabling us to bring FOTO right to our members.

South Bay Mixer Sponsors: Blue Water Grill, Kohl’s, Macy’s, BevMo!, TGIF, Olive Garden, The Cheesecake Factory


Westside Mixer Sponsors: Border Grill, Kohl’s, Trader Joe’s, Orange Empire Railway Museum, 24 Hour Fitness, Olive Garden, Lowe’s Hotel

A special “thank you” to Shauna Tate, FOTO’s Development Officer, for doing all the planning and organizing that made these evenings so memorable.

Cosmic Musings: Let There Be Light: Finding the Earliest Galaxies
by Roy Sykes, FOTO Member

Richard Ellis - Friends of the ObservatoryMonday, April 21, 2014


Guest Speaker: Richard Ellis, Ph.D.


Ever forgot your keys? Lost your glasses? Couldn't find the light? Richard Ellis can help, if you're looking for the keys to the beginning of the universe by peering through 33-foot spectacles for no light whatsoever.

Kicking off Brit Week on April 21, 2014, Dr. Ellis enlightened us about the evolution of the universe and our attempts to image and understand its earliest epochs. The date was fitting as Dr. Ellis is a Welshman honored with a Gold Medal by the Royal Astronomical Society in 2011, although he now is associated with Caltech, which tempted him with access to the twin 10-meter Keck telescopes on Mauna Kea.

Dr. Ellis explained how, using the Kecks, the Hubble, and other space telescopes, we have detected light from galaxies existent 400 million years after the formation of our 13.8 billion-year-old universe. This light is so redshifted by the expansion of the universe that we see emitted red light as infrared and blue light as green. But it also means we should see ultraviolet light from young hot gas clouds, yet we do not because that UV light is absorbed by the molecular hydrogen of the early universe. This effect is compelling evidence of the transition from the “dark ages” to the reionization of matter which allows us to see far into the past.

While this decline in visibility of ultraviolet light has been only coarsely detected so far, the upcoming Thirty Meter Telescope, in which Dr. Ellis is deeply involved, and the James Webb Space Telescope should provide detailed spectrographic data whilst enabling us to peer yet further into the past. As both a researcher and a speaker Dr. Ellis expanded our knowledge, and his good humour engaged us. We thank him.

Cosmic Musings: Are Galaxies Island Universes?
by David B. Reitzel, Ph.D., Astronomical Lecturer Griffith Observatory

Raha Guha ThakurtaMonday, May 19, 2014

Guest Speaker: Professor Raja (Puragra) Guha Thakurta

AndromedaUniversity of California, Santa Cruz Astronomer, Professor Raja Guha Thakurta presented a talk entitled “Are Galaxies Island Universes?” for the May 2014 Cosmic Musings lecture. I know Raja quite well, as he was my Ph.D. advisor while I attended UC Santa Cruz. Raja and I began a program of studying the great Andromeda galaxy by investigating the properties of individual stars in the outer most regions. Our initial studies only hinted at how galaxies are assembled, but with more than a decade of research on the topic, there was much to be discussed.

Raja explained how the view of our galaxy has evolved over time. At one time, we thought there was only one galaxy, our own Milky Way. There was much debate about whether the “spiral nebulae” were inside our galaxy, or were representative of distinct collections of stars much farther away than we thought possible. It was Edwin Hubble who discovered the evidence needed in the form of a pulsating star called a Cepheid variable. By measuring the pulsation period he was able to get a distance to Andromeda, showing it was not inside our galaxy, but millions of light years distant. It seemed we did live inside an island universe of sorts with other galaxies of billions of stars sprinkled throughout space as far as we could see.

Cosmic Musings - Friends of the ObservatoryThe picture of galaxies separated by empty space has persisted despite increasing evidence of stars in far-flung regions. Were these stars just ejected from their host galaxies or are they actually representative of a very diffuse population of stars that belong to the host galaxies? Raja used the Keck I and Keck II telescopes to find many of these stars and determine that Andromeda had stars more than five times further out than previously thought. In fact, the stars from the suburbs of Andromeda and the Milky Way nearly overlap. Raja showed that our two island universes are more closely connected than we previously believed, changing our view from one of vast distances separating the galaxies, to one where stars bridge the space between the dense galactic centers.


Whether you want to learn, enjoy great experiences, or just have some fun, FOTO offers so many things for you, including Cosmic Musings Lectures presented by United, trips, and special events. Plan to join us at the FOTO Holiday Party on Monday, December 1st and put FOTO events on your calendar for the year ahead!


Pictured above: The new view of the Andromeda galaxy from the Herschel space observatory shows lanes of forming stars in very fine detail. Image Credit: ESA/Herschel/PACS & SPIRE Consortium, O. Krause, HSC, H. Linz


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