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Summer 2011 UPDATE
Southwest Astronomy Adventure: Mars, Mirrors and More
by Kara Knack

Southwest Astronomy Adventure GroupBEING A MEMBER OF FRIENDS OF THE OBSERVATORY has so many benefits besides knowing that we support the best in public astronomy. We can attend intriguing lectures, access discounts to the Observatory’s Stellar Emporium and Café at the End of the Universe, read FOTO’s and Griffith Observatory’s magazines, newsletters and website articles, avoid waiting in line for the planetarium shows, and can take advantage of wonderful excursions into astronomical travel. Telescopes, eclipses, mountain tops, oh my.

On a beautiful spring weekend, a baker’s dozen of FOTO members went to Tucson, Arizona on an astronomical field trip, Southwest Astronomy Adventure: Mars, Mirrors, and More. From Thursday afternoon through Sunday afternoon, we shared a glorious experience of elevated ingenuity in the company of engaging Friends. My weekend travel journal is over 50 pages long, a testament to a rich journey.

Home to the University of Arizona, Tucson is a beautiful high desert city with illustrious ties to astronomy. The Steward Observatory Mirror Lab, tucked beneath the football stadium and home to the largest mirror manufacturing in the world, was a great beginning for us. Mirrors are the light buckets of telescopes, gathering more light and more distant information. When Corning Glass masters visited Steward in the early days of production they observed, “We could never have unlearned enough to do what you’ve done.” The awesome 8.4-meter discs are testament to elegant technology. Also on campus is the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) Visitor’s Center, where we were stunned beyond “wow” by images from what’s called the People’s Camera put on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to explore Mars, one image at a time.

Lunch at Tohono Chul Park is a magnificent respite from urban sprawl featuring flora of the Sonoran Desert. The enthusiastic staff regaled us with desert wonders.

About thirty miles north of Tucson, Oracle, Arizona is home to Biosphere 2, the wild and visionary experiment of humans living in a self-sustaining community completely isolated from the outside world. Our four-hour revelatory tour unfolded the two-year, twenty minute life inside that eight people shared during Mission 1.Currently no one lives inside Biosphere 2, but there is plenty of life going on there with U of A experiments studying Earth’s water cycle.

Our Saturday morning began with a trip to the world renowned Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Two U of A volunteers had telescopes set up showing people a very active Sun, with sun spots and solar flares that were mighty showy. Following a fabulous lunch at the Ocotillo Restaurant, we left the scorching heat and laughed at the many signs in Tucson proclaiming: ”But, it’s a DRY heat!”

We drove across the Tucson valley floor and headed up to the top of Mount Lemmon. Situated at 9,157 feet above sea level are six telescopes, one run remotely from Korea. It was eerie when the dome opened and turned with no one in the vicinity. At the Schulman telescope we met the gifted Adam Block, who is as passionate about public astronomy as anyone I’ve met. His
fame as an astrophotographer is understandable and he runs the public viewing program with a deft hand and an engaging spirit. We were all deeply satisfied by our night on the telescope. As we descended Mount Lemmon, we chatted and marveled at the jeweled blanket of Tucson lights covering the plain below.

Our last gathering as a group on Sunday morning was to the Kitt Peak National Observatory. The 6,880-foot mountain houses some of the most active and famous telescopes in the southwest.

The people on this trip, all members of FOTO, were amazing companions on this FOTO journey. Our conversations, friendships, discoveries, and enjoyment of each other seemed to bond us in more than our love of Griffith Observatory.

Thanks to Ann Hassett of FOTO for arranging this wondrous trip of looking up. Much of what we experienced was specifically arranged for FOTO. We are so fortunate that our connection with Griffith Observatory opens so many doors and opportunities that are rarely available.

There were some things I learned that still astound me: The University of Arizona, established in 1885 twenty-seven years before Arizona became a state, has the largest undergraduate astronomy program of any university in the United States; both Mount Lemmon and Kitt Peak were named for women; and people who are members of FOTO are some of the most engaging and interesting people to travel with that I’ve ever met!


For more information:

STEWARD OBSERVATORY MIRROR LAB: 1. Mirror #1 of 7 for the Large Magellan Telescope, 2. Kara shows just how large the image can be reflected


HiRISE: 3. Fullscale model of the HiRise camera


BIOSPHERE 2: 4. FOTO Member Allan Fromm bravely looks down the glass floor


TOHONO CHUL PARK AND TEA ROOM: 5. Docent Raleigh Sheffield starts our tour


ARIZONA-SONORA DESERT MUSEUM: 6. Earth history exhibit, 7. Ocotillo and Saguaro


STEWARD SKY CENTER: 8. Inside “our” dome for the night with Adam Block and his Schulman telescope



All photos from this trip are courtesy of FOTO Member Paul Sunde.

A Day in the Life of a Friends Of The Observatory (FOTO) Volunteer
by Linda Halder

Friends Of The Observatory’s army of faithful volunteers take responsibility for supporting many of FOTO’s activities at Griffith Observatory.

If you have attended any of the FOTO events, you have seen how volunteers are utilized — conducting registration, greeting participants, guiding and assisting visitors, members and staff, all in an effort to make your experience meaningful and efficient. What you haven’t seen is all the work that goes on behind-the scenes to make each event and activity as smooth as possible. Volunteers are not only appreciated, but also necessary, to make programs function.

One volunteer activity you might not have imagined FOTO volunteers undertake is assisting with the Griffith Observatory 8th-grade field trip program. Never heard of it? This is the result of our unique Cosmic Conjunction fundraising event which has as its centerpiece the provision of a unique and valuable educational experience for thousands of students. We began in 2009 with a Cosmic Conjunction experience highlightinga new orchestral production called Observations that was narrated by Leonard Nimoy, with astronomical commentary written by Dr. E.C. Krupp,Griffith Observatory’s Director. This extraordinary event was performed twice, once on the lawn at Griffith Observatory and again a few days later at the Greek Theatre for 3,700 secondary school students. As Camille Lombardo, FOTO’s Executive Director says, “A standard of excellence was set and a tradition of distinctive educational programming for a new segment of students was begun.” In 2010 our Cosmic Conjunction event focused on Griffith Observatory’s 75th anniversary and the debut of a new planetarium show, Light of the Valkyries,which examines the Norse mythological explanation for the aurora borealis phenomenon and then provides a visual treat as the show explains our current scientific understanding of the Sun’s role in the extraordinary light show of the northern lights.

Griffith Observatory’s programming staff, and especially Dr. David Reitzel, Astronomical Lecturer, created a new 2½-hour educational program specifically for 8th grade students, which includes the Light of the Valkyries planetarium show and much more. But let me, Linda Halder FOTO Volunteer, describe my role and the interesting activities that each 8th-grader participates in during the field trip program, Living with a Star.

8:45 a.m. The volunteers, Assistant Park Services Attendants (APSAs), and the Observatory Museum Guides gather around the Foucault Pendulum — a nice change from a typical conference room — for the morning briefing. Each student group is assigned two guides, an APSA, and a volunteer. Our main job as volunteers is to be an additional uniformed presence, but we’re also around to help manage the large groups of kids.

9:00 a.m. The buses begin to arrive with cheery groups of 8th graders excited for the opportunity to explore the Observatory, and likely equally excited to be out of class. The APSAs manage to divide the chaotic busloads of children into neat groups as the Museum Guides introduce themselves to the kids.

9:30 a.m. Each group begins in a different part of the Observatory. Though I’ve volunteered for the 8th grade program several times, it still amazes me to watch the seamless transition of each group from one location in the Observatory to another, just like clockwork. I happened to be assigned to the group that entered the Historic Level first. Though every Museum Guide has their own unique style and approach, they focus specifically on topics covered in the 8th-grade curriculum including the periodic table of elements, the Sun, and the light spectrum. As always, the Tesla Coil is a big hit.

10:15 a.m. Our group transitions to the Gunther Depths of Space. Though all the kids seem delighted to weigh themselves on the various planets and create their own earthquake, they are a bit shy when volunteering answers to the Guides’ questions. When I asked Museum Guide Clark Wiant about his technique he replied, “The 8th-graders offer a bit more of a challenge than the 5th-graders, but you just have to keep them engaged. If you speak to them like adults, you won’t have a problem.”

10:35 a.m. The group is seated in the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon. Once again targeting the 8th-grade science curriculum, the Museum Guides and students discuss the role of stars as “factories” in our universe. I find the Guides so engaging, I have to stop myself from raising my hand to volunteer answers. To top it off, the kids get a demonstration on how to build their very own comet.

11:25 a.m. We bring our group to the final stop on their tour, the Samuel Oschin Planetarium where the students are treated to the newest planetarium show Light of the Valkyries. The show regales us with the Nordic legends of the northern lights, but it also highlights the Sun’s role in the solar system. It is the perfect exclamation point on the field trip.

12:00 p.m. A little sad to leave, the 8th graders once again pile onto their buses. They are buzzing with new information about our Sun; the solar flares, eruptions and disruptions that they saw through the special lenses and the ceolostat; the nuclear furnace (the Sun and other stars) that birth stars; glowing comet tails (and how to make one!); and the northern lights. New information, new excitement about science. As one student recently
remarked, “I honestly used to think science was boring and not fun, but now that I have come to the Observatory everything has changed. The way I think now is that science is so important because we have to know what goes around in space and what is happening with our planet Earth. Science is fun now that I think of it!”

I have to admit, one of my favorite things about being a volunteer is that we get such an amazing opportunity to experience the Observatory from a different perspective. In the case of the 8th grade program, I’m happy to play a small role in inspiring young minds to have a new appreciation for the Universe. Or, as FOTO staff like to say, “Inspiring the Future, One Imagination at a Time.”

Science Isn't the Answer, Science is the Question
by Jerry Brown

I never considered myself much of a traveler, but actually I am, as is everyone else on Planet Earth. We've just completed another trip round our star, a distance of over half a billion miles. (For me that adds up to over 40,000,000,000 miles in my lifetime.) And that's not counting how far we went due to Earth's axial rotation, the solar system's rotation around the galaxy, and the galaxy's motion through space. And, if I've done the math correctly (don't bet on it; these huge numbers are pushing my calculating limits), we did it at a quite respectable speed — over 64,000,000 mph, and with no expenditure of energy on our part. While a long way from the speed limit of the Universe, it beats any other mode of travel I know of.


Yet we seem to be standing still. Why aren't we aware of moving at such a tremendous speed? Galilean relativity, which says motion cannot be detected unless there is a change in direction or velocity. In our journey, though
these changes happen, they are so comparatively small and uniform that they are effectively nonexistent. So, even though we're moving at a good clip by any earthly standards, we're completely unaware of it.


Quite amazing when you realize that not too long ago on an evolutionary time scale, traveling at much over 25 mph was thought to be dangerous and possibly fatal.


Best wishes to all of you as we continue our journey through space-time!


A science enthusiast, Jerry Brown was a mechanic/machinist (now retired) by trade. Jerry built a small refractor telescope nearly fifty years ago that he still uses to this day. His first visit to Griffith Observatory was on a grade-school field trip in 1941. About that same time, he read in a newspaper article that some stars are so dense that a spoonful of their material would weigh tons. From that day on, his interest in astronomy began and his lifelong pursuit of learning about the universe continues.

John Armstrong: Behind-the-Scenes Hero

Like Santa’s elves, the volunteers at Friends Of The Observatory are the behind-the scenes heroes that make FOTO events run smoothly. With everything from answering phones to greeting guests, the cheerful volunteers are always ready to lend a hand at Griffith Observatory. Here, we spotlight one of FOTO’s priceless volunteers — JOHN ARMSTRONG.

Retiree John Armstrong has been volunteering with Friends Of The Observatory since the Observatory reopened in 2006. When asked what drew him to the Observatory, John replied, “I’ve always been interested in astronomy. I used to come here as a kid, probably since I was old enough
to take the bus up here.”

Prior to his work with the Observatory, John spent four and one half years with the United States Air Force rising to the rank of Lt. Colonel, and spent over 23 years with the US National Guard. Staying close to the stars, John also spent 12 years as an airline pilot with American Airlines, taking on a very different view of the night sky. “It gets dark up there. I mean, real dark. There’s not a lot of light pollution at 40,000 feet.” In his many years as a pilot John says, “I’ve never seen a UFO, but I have seen a lot of northern lights. It’s really weird because there’s not a pattern to it. It’s just totally random.”

Apparently misunderstanding the true meaning of retirement, John is up at 6:00 a.m. every day finding time to volunteer with the Civic Arts Center in Thousand Oaks, the crossing guard program in Calabasas, and the Thousand Oaks Police Department, as well as trying to spend time with his many grandchildren. “Gotta keep busy,” John iterates, “There’s no difference between work and play. One you get paid for and one you don’t. But it keeps you occupied.”

John agrees that the volunteer program at Friends Of The Observatory not only provides a way to give back to the community, it is a wonderfully unique way to enjoy Griffith Observatory.

Cosmic Musings Lectures
by Stuart Bernthol

James Webb Space Telescope
June 20, 2011

The FOTO presentation of the James Webb Space Telescope took a wonderfully complex instrument and explained why it is the next logical step to follow the Hubble Telescope. The lecture was presented by experts from Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems: Scott P. Willoughby, Blake M. Bullock, and Jeffrey D. Grant. While the Hubble’s primary focus is visible light, even though it has instruments to explore the near ultra-violet and near infrared spectrums, the James Webb instruments of mid-infrared, near infrared, near infrared spectrograph and Fine guidance Sensor Tunable Filter cameras will allow it to peer through the gas clouds that are impervious to
visible light, exposing the hidden mysteries inside them, many of them star nurseries. It is hoped that we may be able to get closer to galaxy formation approaching the time of the Big Bang. Hopefully they will be able to identify distant planets orbiting a bright central object, such as our solar system. The capacity to select a specific  wavelength will allow us to more selectively study everything to a higher degree than ever before and also, using the spectrograph, determine their physical properties.

Because the telescope will be deployed at the L2 LaGrange Point (about 1,000,000 miles from Earth) with a 6.5  meter primary mirror, and it needed to be shielded from other light sources, the initial launch date has been pushed back from 2014 to 2018.


This was necessary due to the extreme complexity of the problems encountered trying to fit everything into a rocket pod suitable for launch and then be deployed without any failure at the orbital point.


The PowerPoint presentation showing the manner in which the JWST systems will deploy was remarkable. For those of you who missed it or want to review it, it can be reached by selecting this web site:


Six Sisters: the Shuttle Program
May 23, 2011

Presented by Griffith Observatory staff artist Chris Butler, Six Sisters: the Shuttle Program was enlightening,  inspiring and poignant. It paid homage to every shuttle flight, introducing us to each crew, their individual patches, and went on to explain how the shuttle launch numbers changed over time.


It also reminded us of the high price a few of our shuttles and their brave crews paid when they were lost. The Challenger disaster of 1986 was caused by the failure of the o-rings, despite repeated warnings from those scientists involved of the problems of a cold weather launch and the ice crystals noticeable by all observing the launch. Discovery disaster was caused by foam insulation striking the spacecraft at 500 mph, but with no system in place to check the spacecraft prior to reentry. Both of these disasters nearly shut down the shuttle program for good and both of them required a 21/2-year wait for assessment and changes prior to renewing the program.


How it Ends
March 21, 2011

Chris Impey, University Distinguished Professor of the University of Arizona and Deputy Head of the Astronomy
Department, took us through the various theories of the universe from the steady state universe, that was constant and unchanging, to the revelation that the universe is indeed expanding at an accelerating rate.


We explored how the newly discovered concepts of dark matter and dark energy have totally changed our concept of the universe. We have come to grips with the fact the visible universe only comprises 4.6% of the matter in the universe, dark matter accounts for 21% and dark energy accounts for a whopping 74%. While the source of dark energy is not understood, suffice it to say that during the first 7 billion years, dark matter was more powerful and necessary for galaxy formation. The last 7 billion years, dark energy, a repulsive force that is mysteriously pulling our universe apart, seems to be gaining strength. It is now felt that instead of having gravity pull the universe back together into a “Big Crunch” with periodic repeated Big Bangs, the universe will probably end with the “Big Rip,” where everything, including the atoms, will be ripped apart.


The Power of Stars
February 28, 2011

Guest lecturer Dr. B.E. Penprase, Frank P. Brackett Professor of Astronomy and Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Pomona College, described the astronomical traditions of many cultures while noting how our modern culture shares some ancient traditions with our ancestors, while forging ahead with an unprecedented precision in our scientific study of the universe.

Different cultures and civilizations came to different conclusions as to the origins of both man and the heavens. Many cultures seemed to focus on similar star formations, assigning them different names and powers.


The Greeks, Chinese, Mayan, Aztec, Egyptian, Babylonian and Native American cultures all explored the heavens and derived their own myths. The roots of astronomy to astrology were studied, as were the temples different cultures erected in order to get closer to their concept of God.


Join Friends of the Observatory's Voyage to Totality November 14, 2012

Totality is 3 minutes and 28 seconds.

FRIENDS OF THE OBSERVATORY is partnering with TravelQuest International to offer you an opportunity to see the longest total solar eclipse of the next three years and customize your South Pacific cruise. Cruising aboard the Celebrity Cruises’ MILLENNIUM is the highly preferred way to stalk a solar eclipse because of the ship’s ability to maneuver around bad weather and maximize eclipse viewing prospects. In fact, eclipse meteorologist Jay Anderson calculates our chances of being successful at over 75 percent! For more information, please visit us at our website at

Amateur Astronomers Invite the Public to Informal Viewings
by Sarah Grooters
LA Weekly 3/3/11

Just a few miles from Hollywood Boulevard and the Sunset Strip, Bob Magee peers through a lens, searching for stars.


With names like Vega, Alcor and Becrux, these stars can’t be  found in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. When Magee looks for his stars, he looks up at the night sky.

“I come up here for the wow factor, really,” Magee says. “There’s so much more out there than just the city.“


Magee is one of about two-dozen people whobring their high-powered telescopes to the Griffith  Park Observatory every month. The amateur astronomers focus their telescopes on different parts of the night sky and invite everyone to come take a look. Telescope or not, the views are insane.

“We love the sky — we like to share it,” telescope owner Pam Thompson says. “It’s the hobby that never sleeps. It’s exciting.”

On a clear night, sometimes 1,000 people show up to the Public Star Party, which has the feel of a drive-in movie or an evening at Barnsdall Art Park. Parents bring picnics, blankets and those backpack-leashes for their toddlers (it’s dark, after all). Teenagers hold hands and laugh loudly as they move from telescope to telescope. One older couple grows tired of looking up. They whisper, giggle and sneak away from the crowd. Good thing no one points a telescope in their direction.

Some take the stargazing more seriously.


Nine-year-old Connor Bramel is the type of kid astronomers hope will  come. Connor has studied space in school. His dad, Chris, drove him up from Tustin to get a glimpse of the universe; they stood in line for about 45 minutes to see the biggest telescope featured at the Public Star Party. It’s known as the “26-incher” (in reference to its
diameter) and was donated to the group by NASA. It was supposed to be launched into space but never actually made it.


“It was cool to see Jupiter,” Connor says with a smile. “It’s one of the biggest planets out there. I saw the moons around it, too.


The line to see Thompson’s and Magee’s telescopes moves more quickly. Hers focuses on the moon, while his zooms in on the Orion Nebula, one of his favorite star systems.

Magee’s interest in the night sky started when he worked for NASA in the 1990s. He oversaw repairs to engines that later propelled astronauts into space.


“I figured I should know where I was sending the crew,” Magee says. “That’s how I got interested in planets and stars and the moon. I wanted to see what they see.”

Thompson, a Monrovia High School science teacher, is an accidental astronomy buff. About 15 years ago, she saw a fuzzy patch in the sky and took out her binoculars. Her curiosity eventually led her to buy a telescope.

She now looks through it three or four times a week and attends lectures to stay up-to-date. She loves to point her telescope at the moon but really just enjoys getting outside and feeling connected to the universe.

“I think we’ve lost something” by living in the city, Thompson says. She finds it remarkable “to be able to see the sky that our ancestors had.”


The night sky is just as vibrant over Hollywood as it is in Kansas. The problem is we can’t see it. Lights shine on movie stars here, competing with the twinkle of other heavenly bodies. For city  dwellers, the Public Star Party might be the only way to catch Mother Nature’s biggest show.

Well, almost.

“One of my biggest tips is to run outside after an earthquake,” Thompson says. “Even if it’s just a small one, chances are the lights will go out across the area. Look up and you’ll see things you’ve never seen. ... It’s overpowering to go from a light sky to a dark sky.”

If you don’t know what you’re looking at, just ask.

“I love to tell people that what they are looking at is light-years away or is the creation of a new star system,” Magee says. “They are amazed, and it’s fun to share that.”

Public Star Parties

FREE public star parties are held monthly with the assistance of the Los Angeles Astronomical Society and the Los  Angeles Sidewalk Astronomers at Griffith Observatory from 2:00 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. They are a chance for the whole  family to look at the Sun, Moon, visible planets, and other objects, to try out a variety of telescopes, and to talk to knowledgeable amateur astronomers about the sky and their equipment. Registration is not required and all ages are welcome. Come join us in our upcoming Public Star Parties: SEPTEMBER 3 • OC TOBER 1 • NO VEMBER 5 • DECEMBER 3

FOTO Member Stuart Bernthol: Livin' and Learnin'
by Elisabeth Duran

It’s said there’s a simple choice once our schooldays are behind us: we can either keep learning or we can stop. Either test ourselves or not.

Coast or fly.

From the long list of interests and challenges retired dentist and Tarzana resident Stuart Bernthol has pursued, it’s evident he chose the boredom-free path.

“Dentistry was what I did,” he explains, “Not who I was.”


Over the years Bernthol’s patients shared an endless supply of fascinating experiences with him.

“My curiosity in everything made it easy to talk to them no matter where they were from, and they were from all over the world.” Bernthol counted among his patients a top official in the Soviet air force; a CIA operative active in the Cuban revolution; and an eyewitness to Mao Zedong’s pursuit of Chiang Kai-shek.

Going to work was like going to the library, Bernthol says.


“I’m interested in so many things; anthropology, evolution, aviation, history, paleontology, and then theoretical physics just for fun.”

And add astronomy and Griffith Observatory to Bernthol’s passions.

“When the Observatory shut down for renovation I was devastated,” he recalls. “When it reopened I wanted to bring a group of friends in so I joined FOTO just to be able to get in earlier.”

Recently Bernthol even had himself discharged from the hospital in time to hear Observatory curator Dr. Laura Danly lecture on dark matter that evening.

He estimates he visits Griffith at least once a month and often brings friends and family members.

“I’ve been there a hundred times, and every time there’s something to learn, whether you’re interested in  meteorites or cosmic rays,” Bernthol says. “The Observatory has done a wonderful job making the exhibits user-friendly — people at every age can be inspired.”


Growing up in Hollywood, Bernthol’s earliest memory of Griffith is not of the Observatory but the park, where he used to fly kites. “I liked to experiment, and one day I learned a lesson: My kite was six-feet high, so big it broke the string,” sending his prototype into a terminal nosedive.

It only fueled his inquiring mind, something he’d like to do for today’s young people. He recounts a seminal event from his own childhood as a violinist in a youth orchestra. One day the group was bused to an orphanage to perform for the residents.

“That bus trip I took changed my life,” he says. “I never felt poor, because I was given all I needed, including love. I knew other people had more ‘things’ than us, but my parents gave us so much love and support that things never seemed important to me. They still don’t.”

And now he would like to be part of the effort to inspire today’s less advantaged children.

“A trip to the Observatory could be a moment of epiphany for some young budding scientist and I applaud the efforts of FOTO to make this experience available to them.”

Indeed, FOTO’s financial support ensures students from all over the Southland can attend the Observatory’s school
program, a field trip unaffordable in many districts. To that end, Bernthol has increased his support of the Observatory this year to sponsor at least one school trip.


“I love the mentoring projects that FOTO offers to young children to inspire them and open them up to the possibilities of learning the mysteries of life.”


Bernthol’s own adventurous life includes stints as a Hollywood extra and a long amateur career in the theatre. “I’ve been fortunate to be able to participate in so many memorable opportunities. When I was a student I was in the [1960] movie “Spartacus” with Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, Lawrence Olivier and Charles Laughton. And at another point I wanted to be a singer and was offered a record contract but decided I didn’t want to risk the pitfalls of that life.”


He didn’t lose his love of performance, however, going on to appear regionally in “Guys and Dolls,” “Auntie Mame,” “Sweet Charity” and “Fiddler on the Roof.”


Having so many interests is “kind of a curse,” Bernthol says. “But there’s very little I don’t enjoy.


“Those of us that are lucky enough to be able to take a bite out of life and participate in so many of the marvelous
opportunities for personal growth available in the Los Angeles area, or anywhere one may live for that matter, are truly fortunate.”

Bernthol takes that bite in the company of good friends. On any given Thursday, he and friends Stanley DeCovnick and Phillip Binderman visit a museum, an air show or art exhibit; at least twice a month they attend lectures — the Civil War is a favorite topic. And they and fellow traveler Dr. William Ginell usually attend FOTO lectures with him.
From the Train and Red Car Museum in San Bernardino to the Natural History Museum in Santa Barbara, the Southland is their playground.

“I think the greatest compliment I ever received was from a classmate of mine in junior high school, who called me the largest volume of worthless information he ever met… I feel so fortunate that I am able to participate in the programs offered by FOTO. Being able to watch presentations and participate in question and answer sessions with so many wonderfully qualified presenters at our FOTO programs is a special privilege.”

Griffith Observatory: Awards and Recognition

It seems as if every few days there is some new sighting of Griffith Observatory — whether it is in the Los Angeles Times, or the Automobile Club’s magazine, or the television weather person using the Observatory as their broadcast’s backdrop. You would think the Observatory was an A-level celebrity and the paparazzi are stalking! Oh yes, indeed, the Observatory is an A-level celebrity and the following list of how many people, organizations,  periodicals, movies, events, etc.…have recognized the Observatory’s rightful position, just since re-opening, is staggering. Take a look…




Top Ten Los Angeles Destinations

January 2011


Top Ten Adventures for a 10-Year-Old

Los Angeles Times

October 2010
Observatory featured on this nationwide list including the Grand Canyon, Old Faithful, and the San Diego Zoo.


Honorary 2010 MTV Music Award
MTV Networks
September 2010

Observatory hosted a live performance by Linkin Park on the front lawn as part of 2010 MTV Music Awards.


Visit by First Lady of the United States and Family
U.S. Government
June 2010
Mrs. Obama, her mother, and her two daughters made a special evening visit, an activity which received significant post-event media coverage.


A Tribute to Griffith Observatory
Congressional Record
May 2010
A special citation in the Congressional Record in recognition of the Observatory’s seventy-fifth anniversary of service.

World’s Top Ten Greatest Ceilings
May 2009
Observatory’s Ballin Murals on the inner dome of the W.M. Keck Foundation Central Rotunda were highlighted on this list of spectacular world-wide ceilings.

Top Ten Places to See Before You Are Ten
Travel + Leisure Magazine
September 2008
Popular travel magazine list also included Grand Canyon, Ellis Island, and Niagara Falls.


World’s Top Ten Stargazing Spots
Travel + Leisure Magazine
September 2008
Observatory included on world-wide list despite major light pollution in Los Angeles area.




2009 Illumination Awards – Award of Merit
Illuminating Engineering Society of North America
Recognition for the Observatory’s solar transit instrument in the Gottlieb Transit
Corridor, designed and installed as part of the renovation and expansion project.


Institute Honor Award for Architecture
2008 Honor Awards
American Institute of Architects (AIA)

May 2008
Major national award recognizing the City and architects who contributed to the
Observatory’s renovation and expansion.

2008 International Illumination Design Award – Award of Merit
Illuminating Engineering Society of North America
Recognition for the Observatory’s interior lighting design and implementation as part of the renovation and expansion project.







Article about Planetarium Shows
New York Times
February 2011
Observatory specifically cited for the quality and unique approach of its planetarium show. “A live presenter enters the dark theater holding an illuminated globe, speaking of the ‘ancient mystery of the night sky’ with such appeal that later we are prepared to go outside in the evening air and look for ourselves.”

2011 Baseball All-Star
Game Intro
Fox Sports
July 2010
Observatory and astronomy are the themes of the opening for one of the most-watched broadcasts of the summer.


NCIS-Los Angeles
CBS Television
May 2010
Observatory is site of concluding scene of one of TV’s most popular dramas.


Article about Museum Exhibits
New York Times
March 2010
Observatory cited very favorably as an institution which “…in its displays and its approach presents a universe that
may be divinely inspired but is deeply human-centered.”


 Ultimate Cake Off
TLC Network
March 2010
Popular cable program featured Observatory’s 75th birthday as the theme of the episode, which concluded with a reveal of the winning cake at Observatory-FOTO event.

Observatory Hosts Star Trek DVD Release Party
Paramount Studios
November 2009

Observatory receives major media coverage for hosting DVD release party for hit movie, including major Observatory donor and benefactor Leonard Nimoy.


Debunking 2012
Multiple publications
October 2009
Dr. Krupp appears on TODAY Show, MSNBC, and New York Times, and many others, to debunk the claims made by those who believe time will end in 2012.

Brothers and Sisters
ABC Television
September 2009
Observatory is the location for the opening scene of the first episode of the 2009-10 season of the popular ABC drama.

Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson
CBS Television
August 2009
Observatory is the first image in opening credits montage of Los Angeles places



Griffith Observatory Revisited
by Edward Michael Diaz, FOTO Member

This summer I revisited, after an absence of many years, the Griffith Observatory. It was a wonderful experience, not only because it brought back memories of when, as a child, my parents would take my siblings and me to the Observatory, but because on this visit I was able to introduce newcomers to this very special place. I took one of our workers who is from Guatemala, his two teenage sons, and his 8-year-old twin boys. We all had a terrific time: the two planetarium shows we attended; the exploration of the exhibits; the interaction

with staff members who answered our questions; the lunch in the cafeteria — all was topnotch. You provided us with an educational and enjoyable experience and I’m pleased I was able to open your doors to someone who otherwise may not have visited you. They, as well as I, will be back.


Edward Michael Diaz,  FOTO Member


LEFT: Drawings done by the twins, Eddy and Kevin Belteton Acevedo, inspired by their visit to the Observatory.

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