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Diamond Nights Northern Lights
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 is very proud of the work that Griffith Observatory does every day and we relish the opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments. With the added resources raised from this special evening, Diamond Nights -  Northern Lights, we are able to support thousands more students' visits to the Observatory. We continue to...Inspire the Future, One Imagination at a Time.


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).

Stirring and familiar, Grifith Observatory had used the “The Ride of the Valkyries” for decades as the finale for the school field trip planetarium show from the 1960s through the Observatory closing in 2002. It was a good idea then, and we thought it would be a good idea now, too.


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
two-halves staff  (two of our seven are part-time employees) had a tall order to ill.


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.

THOUGH THEY NEVER KNEW IT, my students were quite lucky. You see, Micheltorena Street School in Silver Lake, where I teach 5th grade, is a small, Title I learning community where socio-economically disadvantaged families comprise a significant subgroup, and this year, the brutal economic crisis forced us to take the bleak measure of slashing our field trips to a mere one per  grade  level.  Fortunately,  our  5th  graders  were  allowed  a  second chance to escape the confines of the classroom — thanks to Friends Of The Observatory and their most beneficent program which provides students who might not otherwise have such an opportunity, the chance to come here to this bastion of knowledge and discovery to engage in a unique adventure impossible to replicate in the classroom.

But more importantly, what is the long-term impact of such an encounter with active learning? I attest that it is significant and far-reaching. In fact, I pretty much guarantee that if you think back to your days in elementary school, you won’t recall the textbooks you studied or the blah-blah-blah that emanated from your teacher. You’ll call to mind the things you did. And this is germane, for it is experiences like those offered here, those made possible by your that become the hooks upon which the brain hangs learning. And when students subsequently return to the classroom, not only is the resultant learning more readily retained, the motivation with which the students are infused continues to foster further growth throughout all subject areas.

My time is waning, so let me just say that you may have noticed, for many 5th-graders, life can often be all about “Me, Me, Me!”— a situation no doubt exacerbated by certain of life’s circumstances, as when opportunities such as this are not common, and the parameters of one’s existence are very narrow.

That is why I am so very thankful for Friends Of The Observatory and their vital work because it provides these kids what they need most, a chance to see not only beyond the planet, but beyond themselves to places where only the
potential within and their dreams of beyond can take them. And for that, I thank you all for your support and dedication to a more than worthy cause.  


— 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.

Olmos had been contacting a friend, Atlantis astronaut Garrett Reisman, and periodically checking  his  BlackBerry for a response.




“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.

Cynthia's Blog
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 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 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 go by and pick up an Ozzy Dog....hey-Donald Trump even sends his people out to pick up
dogs from Pink’s all of the time!! the middle of June Pink’s will be opening an additional store at the newly expanding LAX.........many compliments to Lisa Anderson and Camille Lombardo of FOTO...and all the FOTO team for another
wonderful party!”

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.



The first program bringing students on field trips to the new planetarium and exhibits at Griffith Observatory began 75 years ago, just a few weeks after the building opened to the public. The Observatory field trip program was one of the first in the region, and subsequently became a rite of passage for millions of Los Angeles children. Since the building reopened after renovation, the Observatory’s school visit program has evolved into one of the most rigorous and purposeful such efforts in the United States.




Joy Picus, Chair
David Primes, President
Bonnie Winings, Vice President
Michael Lester, Treasurer
Martin Neumann, Secretary
Howard Ballon
Walter Beck
Z. Nagin Cox
Noemi Cruz Jerry
Dr. Verna B. Dauterive

Sherry Dewane
Linda Duttenhaver
Dr. Eve Haberfield
Akemi Ichiho
Kara Knack
Chris Laib
Arnold Seidel
Vicke Selk
Charles Wilmot



 Jon Kirk Mukri, General Manager
 Vicki Israel, Assistant General Manager
 Dr. E. C. Krupp, Director
 Mark Pine, Deputy Director
 Dr. Laura Danly, Curator





 Lisa Anderson
 Melissa Devor
 Ann Hassett
 Carol Holst
 Camille Lombardo
 Troy Powers


 John Armstrong
 Mary Balian
 Connie Elliott
 Linda Halder
 Dennis Koba
 Janet Marott
 Kathleen Noone
 Susan Streaser

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