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Summer 2012 Update
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Summer 2012 UPDATE
Time's Up
by Dr. E.C. Krupp, Griffith Observatory Director

According to some, the ancient Maya calendar predicts the catastrophic End of the World when the Maya tally of days in the passage of time completes another cycle on December 21, 2012—the winter solstice. So, in May, 2012, with less than
seven months of shopping days left before the alleged end of time as we know it, Griffith Observatory took on the 2012 Maya Calendar End Times Follies in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium with a new planetarium show—Time’s Up.


When Griffith Observatory reopened in November, 2006, after a $93-million renovation and expansion, the Observatory’s Museum Guides reported that visitors most frequently asked about the Maya calendar and the calamities it claimed to predict for 2012. Although none of the predictions of Maya calendar doom are rooted in fact, over the next few years, it became obvious media attention and public interest in the 2012 claims would intensify as the Maya calendar countdown continued. The steady growth of false rumors affiliated with 2012 prompted Griffith Observatory to do something to help restore the year’s maligned reputation. Time’s Up was planned to take on misguided Maya-calendar anxiety and reveal what’s really in store this December.


Time’s Up does not stop, however, with Maya calendar lore and false predictions of doom. In Time’s Up, 2012 is really just the gateway for a more profound understanding of time and the long-term future of the universe. After transporting the audience to Tikal (image shown on the header above), one of the largest centers of power in the Maya world 1200 years ago, for a look at ancient Maya calendar inscriptions and how they worked, the show hitches a ride on the arrow of time to reveal how the universe really works and what time really is.


Time is change, and modern physics tells us the arrow of time, from past to future, is really all about the kind of change the universe will entertain. Physics handles this with the second law of thermodynamics, and it just means energy spreads out. That is what puts direction into the arrow of time, and it’s an irreversible process.

Astronomical observations put the nature of time on display in the story of the universe. In Time’s Up, the mirror of the Hubble Space Telescope captures glimpses of the past in the light of every distant object it collects. That light travels at a known speed, but even at 186,000 miles per second, it takes time for the light to reach us. That means we see things as they were, not as they are.

Looking out in space, we are looking back in time, and looking back in time, we see the history of the cosmos. Looking out in space, we see a story. Time’s Up assembles those reports from the past into a narrative that begins with the  beginning of time, at the Big Bang, condenses the sun from interstellar gas, creates the solar system and forms the earth, and then continues billions and billions of years into the future, long after the sun has faded and the earth has become a cinder.


In the far distant future, the galaxies all outrace each other, and all their stars go dim. The universe is cold, dark, and  empty. Energy has been spread thin by the law of physics that makes time tick—the second law of thermodynamics. It’s the same law that turns ancient Tikal from a grand and living Maya city into a ruin in the jungle, and the universe would be
alien to us without it.

This ultimate cosmic darkness and cold sounds dreary, but it’s not our story. It’s the universe’s story. It dwarfs not only our lives and the span of civilizations, like the Maya, but also the entire multi-billion-year history of the earth.


These extraordinary chronologies of time and space aren’t really relevant to the moments in which we live. We are  privileged, however, to discern them through the opportunity of observation, which is granted to us by the arrow of time.


In fact, we are fully credentialed participants in this remarkable story. We are the ones who tell it.


Time’s Up shows not only how we have contrived calendars and packaged cycles of time to support a history and imagine a future, it also shows how we have actually looked back down the trajectory of the arrow of time. Through that endeavor, we are able to witness and report the real grandeur and mystery of the cosmos.

We get to look back into the past. We get to seize the day. We get to make the future.


TUESDAY MAY 29 WAS A BEAUTIFUL DAY— warm balmy breezes wafted through the air at Griffith Observatory. A perfect day to premiere the newest Griffith Observatory planetarium production: Time’s Up.


Six hundred loyal FOTO members, generous donors, intrigued members of the public, and their guests descended upon the Observatory for an extraordinary open house evening. Each hall was filled with guests exploring the exhibits with the help of our most experienced and informed staff — Dr. E.C. Krupp, Griffith Observatory Director, gave us a wonderful sunset talk; Dr. Laura Danly, Curator, made sense of the coelostat; Mark Pine, Deputy Director, expounded upon The Big Picture in the Gunther Depths of Space; Dr. David Reitzel, Astronomical Lecturer, prepared us for how close asteroids are to us in the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon theater; Camille Lombardo, FOTO Executive Director, greeted guests in the Director’s Library and in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium; and our most experienced Museum Guides elucidated on the Foucault Pendulum, the Tesla Coil, the Edge of Space, and in the Wilder Hall of the Eye and the Ahmanson Hall of the Sky. All of the exhibits were open to explore and enjoy, telescopes on the lawn were available and light refreshments rounded out the evening.

Our evening together at Griffith Observatory was definitely all about inspiration.

Transit of Venus
by Dr. David Reitzel

Transits of planets across the disk of the sun have been used to observe and study the solar system since the German astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler made the first detailed prediction for a transit of Mercury in 1631. Kepler also predicted a transit of Venus for 1631, but it was not visible in Europe and went unseen. Jeremiah Horrocks, an English clergyman, predicted and observed the 1639 transit of Venus and was the first person to do both. By the next transit of Venus, in 1761, astronomers were collaborating internationally to collect and analyze measurements of transit times from different places on the earth. The English astronomer Edmond Halley had recognized how these observations could be used to establish a more accurate estimate of the distance between the earth and the sun, and eighteenth-century astronomers cooperated in an attempt to make the most of that century’s two Venus transits. Expeditions were again mobilized for the 1769 transit of Venus. Captain James Cook, famous for his exploration of the Pacific, headed one of these missions on his first voyage and observed thetransit on Tahiti.

Astronomers are still making use of transits of Venus. They may have caught a glimpse of sunlight refracted through the atmosphere of Venus during its most hrecent transit, on June 5, 2012. These observations may permit calculation of the temperature of the planet’s upper atmosphere. The result may then be compared to the temperatures measured by the Venus Express spacecraft currently in orbit around Venus.

The Hubble Space Telescope also monitored the last transit of Venus, but not directly. The sun is much too bright to be observed with the Hubble Space Telescope. The spacecraft was instead pointed at the moon, which reflects sunlight back to the telescope. Spectroscopy with the Hubble Space Telescope is sensitive enough to determine the composition of the atmosphere of Venus with this indirect technique. In the near future, similar methods will be used to determine the atmospheric composition of planets in orbit around other stars. We just need to build a telescope big enough to do the job.

Transits are currently used to search for planets around other stars. The orbiting Kepler telescope is now measuring the light from 150,000 stars. It has enough precision to tell when a planet transits across the face of its star. The Kepler  mission has identified 61 planets and more than 2,300 planet candidates in just the first 16 months of operation, with many more to come.

Transit Day With...
FOTO Board Members Kara Knack and Noemi Cruz Jerry



HERE’S MY TRANSIT DAY STORY, which I had anticipated to be a solitary adventure since I was not planning on leaving Malibu all day. In mid-afternoon just after three, I put my Griffith Observatory Solarama around my neck and headed out to vote and do errands but as I stood in my driveway looking for Venus through the glass, my neighbors saw me and we spent the next 15 minutes looking, talking and being in awe.

At the post office I took another look and several people came up to me over the next few minutes asking if they could look. One person had seen the image of Griffith Observatory on my Solarama and knew it was safe, he told me. My polling place was at our local elementary school and everyone inside took a turn coming out to look at Venus in front of the sun. The Solarama was getting a good workout. There were lots of kids still playing in the playground and two little girls (about 8 or 9 years old) came over asking about what we were looking at. I told them about the transit and that we could see it through the welder’s glass. They each looked several times, asking questions about what it meant and how big was Venus. The news that it wasn’t going to happen again for 105 years really made them pensive. One of the little girls looked through the Solarama and said to me, “My own kids will probably not see this. I’ll never forget this day as long as I live.” Wow.

In the grocery store parking lot I got about seven people to look before I went in to shop but then the produce guy noticed the Solarama hanging around my neck and asked if it was possible to see Venus. We left
my half-filled cart in the aisle and out to the parking lot we went. The meat department guy found me in the bread aisle and said he heard I had a viewer and wondered if he could take a look. My cart sat in the
aisle again.

When I got home my neighbors came out for one last look and after I got the groceries put away I watched the sun and Venus drop behind the Santa Monica Mountains feeling pretty happy I’d taken my Solarama
with me.

In between I did tune in for the live feed and what a treat seeing all the people at Griffith and being a part of the huge excitement I heard in Griffith Observatory Curator Dr. Laura Danly’s voice.



CONGRATULATIONS FOR A TRULY SPECTACULAR EVENT, yesterday! I watched live feed of the Observatory lawn on a national television station through the internet. It looked awesome! Big, excited, happy  looking crowd! Really sparked the imagination of the LA populace.


Yesterday, I handed out, at work, copies of the Media Alert on the transit of Venus that was provided at Monday’s FOTO Board Meeting. My colleagues were very enthused, but without an outlet for their enthusiasm. It turns out that a FOTO member is a security guard at my office building. He brought with him to work his binoculars and welder’s goggles. My colleagues and I were able to see the transit of Venus, live, using his apparatus. It was very cool!

You Have Again Inspired Us!
by Mark Hummer

From: Mark Hummer
Sent: Tuesday, June 05, 2012

You Have Again Inspired Us!


I wanted to show you what we're doing this afternoon at Micheltorena Street School! I've attached some pix I took of some students and parents checking out the transit of Venus. As you will see, we (as in Mr. Doug Kerr) set up a telescope masked with a double thickness of welder's glass. I took out my laptop and let people observe the live feed from Griffith Observatory…I thought you would appreciate further evidence of how the work of FOTO filters out into the  community.


Planetarium Enthusiasts!
by Lee Woolever

From: Lee Woolever
Sent: Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Planetarium Enthusiasts!

We had a wonderful time, as always. Arrived early, watched the transit, caught the movies, snacked at the cafe, marveled at the views, and got engrossed in the exhibits. We represent 5 generations of Griffith Observatory and Planetarium enthusiasts. Marvelous!

Reserve your TIME'S UP planetarium show tickets the easy way!

To reserve any planetarium show tickets, FOTO members can just follow these simple steps:


  • Go to and click on the top left blue tab MEMBERS ONLY: Reserve Planetarium Tickets Now.
  • Fill in your contact information and then identify the planetarium show you wish to attend.
  • Put in the date you wish to see your show, then a pop-up will appear with the times of the various shows. Choose your show time.
  • Make sure you tell us how many tickets you want reserved AND how many cars need reserved parking. You definitely want reserved parking!
  • It is important to make your reservations early, as it can take up to three business days to receive your confirmation email. The confirmation email must be brought with you to confirm your parking and ticket reservations. Do read the instructions on the email about timing your arrival, and how to pay for and collect your tickets.




Griffith Observatory Takes on the World (Wide Web) with FOTO Gift
by Dr. Laura Danly, Griffith Observatory Curator

Everyone who lives in or visits Los Angeles knows that Griffith Observatory is the best place on earth to look through a telescope, take in a planetarium show, and enjoy a panoramic vista from a magnificent municipal park, but that leaves a lot of people out there who do not get to attend Griffith Observatory events and programs in person. That is all about to change, thanks to a generous gift from FOTO.


During the transit of Venus on June 5, 2012, Griffith Observatory embarked upon a new era of global Griffith Observatory public outreach with a live stream from the Observatory’s triple-beam coelostat. This solar telescope’s magnified view of Venus crossing the sun’s disk was transmitted on our new webcasting channel,


FOTO’s purchase of a new, professional-grade video switcher allowed the Observatory to manage feeds from the coelostat, from two Observatory optical telescopes, from a computer with interpretive graphics, and from a video camera, for on-screen commentary. The feeds were then manipulated and fed to a variety of locations, including the large screens in the Gunther Depths of Space and the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon theater, news media outlets, and our live web stream.

The transit of Venus webcast was produced by the same small Observatory team that had just completed the new show for the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, Time’s Up, which opened to the public on May 31, 2012.

Deadlines for the premiere of the new show meant we had very little time to acquire, assemble, and activate the new technology. We got approval for the purchase of the switcher on Monday, May 28. We ordered the equipment the next day and took delivery three days later. On Monday, June 4, we set up, configured, and tested the equipment, and by 2:00 p.m., P.D.T., on Tuesday, June 5, we were broadcasting the transit of Venus to the world. Nearly 80,000 people watched GriffithObservatoryTV, and they found it on their own with almost no promotion on our part. It was particularly satisfying to see the comments from all over the world and in many foreign languages.

The new equipment opens the door for a whole new world of Observatory programming. We’ll soon have the ability to broadcast other celestial phenomena, lectures, interviews, and events. We’ll give distant audiences the opportunity to enjoy some of what happens at Griffith Observatory, and perhaps we’ll inspire them to come to Los Angeles to experience Griffith Observatory in person.

New Mexico Annular Solar Eclipse Adventure
by Holly Bridges Shapira, FOTO Board Member
May 17-21, 2012

Twenty hardy eclipse chasers traveled to New Mexico in May on a five-day tour organized by Friends Of The Observatory. The capstone event was, of course, the annular eclipse on May 20. But along the way the group enjoyed wonders both celestial and terrestrial. Led by Dr. E. C. Krupp, with day-to-day tour management by FOTO Office and Volunteer Program Manager and part-time Observatory Guide, Lisa Anderson, the excursion explored the Land of Enchantment’s rich history in space science and technology, along with its fascinating prehistory and native cultures.


It IS Rocket Science

First stop: The New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo. Like a playground of large space-related artifacts, the outdoor John P. Stapp Air & Space Park includes the Sonic Wind I rocket sled ridden by the intrepid Dr. Stapp, and replicated here by FOTO eclipse traveler, Austin Elliott, of Davis, CA.


Take Me to Your Leader

Inside the Museum of Space History visitors can see how men and women have lived and worked in space. Here tour member, Susan Russell, of El Cerrito, CA, receives instruction on how to succeed in an orbiting space station. The first day concluded in Cloudcroft, nestled in the mountains above Alamogordo. Astronomer and New Mexico resident Alan Hale,  co-discoverer of the Hale-Bopp comet in 1998, regaled the FOTO group at dinner with tales of his explorations. Before bedtime, Dr. E.C. Krupp led the group on a star tour under the dark New Mexican skies,  complete with celestial mythology stories.










Sky’s No Limit

In the thin air and crystalline skies of Sacramento Peak, the FOTO group toured the National Solar Observatory. Most of the Richard B. Dunn Solar Telescope is below ground. Hence the iceberg-like peak you see here.

Hello Helios

Inside the Dunn Solar Telescope sun scholars use state-of-the-art instruments to explore the intricacies of Our Star’s surface features. Upon exiting the Solar Telescope, our group had a commanding view of the vast gypsum plain of White Sands National Monument.


Rock Concert

Using stone on stone, the ancient Jornada Mogollon people carved some 21,000 glyphs of birds, humans, animals, fish, bugs, and plants, along with intricate geometric designs between  A.D. 900 and 1,400. With jaws dropped and cameras at constant click, the FOTO group trekked the trails winding through a portion of the 50-acre Three Rivers Petroglyph Site, situated in New Mexico’s northern Chihuahuan Desert.

Come Array with Me

One of the world’s premier astronomical radio observatories, the Very Large Array very greatly impressed the FOTO group, especially when they moved! We watched in amazement at the almost balletic  movements made by the readjustment of the 82’ in diameter dishes . Here we are posing on the Plains of San Agustin, 50 miles west of Socorro.















Venus Attacks

Griffith Observatory’s Dr. Ed Krupp, a leading expert in archaeo-astronomy, points out an ancient depiction of Venus as a warrior star at Petroglyph National Monument in Riconada.


Glyph Central

Park Ranger Luke Fields gave FOTO visitors a fascinating personalized tour of Petroglyph National Monument the day before the annular eclipse. The Monument was a designated eclipse-viewing site, smack
dab on the center line, and the National Park Service hosted a beautifully organized astronomical event for some 250 eclipse viewers on May 20.


Journey Below

Members of the FOTO tour enjoyed a rare chance to descend into the extraordinary painted kiva at Coronado State Park. The kiva’s wall paintings depict earth and heaven cycles and spirits important to the local ancient Pueblo tribe.



Dr. Krupp and FOTO members Charlie and Shirley Mims of Los Angeles enjoy a happy moment at the waning of the eclipse day.


The Big Show

Members of the FOTO tour staked out prime real estate and set up tripods and telescopes, donned their solar glasses and raised their filters as the moon slid into its annular conjunction with the sun. A news team from NBC covered the event and captured a few FOTO folks in their national broadcast the following night on NBC Nightly News (you can view it at

Eclipsing Solar Apathy at Griffith Observatory
by Mark Pine, Griffith Observatory Deputy Director

ON SUNDAY, MAY 20, 2012, Griffith Observatory welcomed thousands of visitors for free viewing of the deepest partial solar eclipse in Los Angeles in 20 years. Observatory staff, along with volunteers from the Los Angeles Astronomical Society, Los Angeles Sidewalk Astronomers, and The Planetary Society, offered everyone a chance to look at the eclipsed sun through filtered telescopes, on the coelostat projection screen, and with Observatory-designed eclipse glasses and Solarama viewers. The lawn was covered with people observing the eclipse safely on their own or waiting to look at it through more than two dozen telescopes and mounted binoculars.

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes directly between the sun and the earth. The moon then blocks all or part of the sun. Although this happens roughly twice a year, the zone on the earth from which it may be seen is relatively small and varies each time. With 85.9 percent of the sun’s diameter and 78.6 percent of the sun’s area eclipsed in Los Angeles on May 20, more of the sun was covered by the moon in any eclipse since 1992, and the eclipse turned the sun into a crescent.

Elsewhere in the southwest U.S., in a relatively narrow band—about 200 miles wide—that started on the coast of southern Oregon and ended in west Texas, the sun looked like a ring. In that territory, the moon crossed centrally over the disk of the sun, but the moon was a little too far from the earth—and so a little too small—to cover the sun completely. Eclipse watchers on the central path saw an annular eclipse.

Griffith Observatory Curator Dr. Laura Danly opened the event at Griffith Observatory with a challenge to everyone to report "first contact" by the moon on the sun. It was due at 5:24 p.m., P.D.T. She later led the crowd in a countdown to maximum eclipse at 6:38 p.m., P.D.T., when the sun was a crescent and the sky seemed to have some of the color and diminished brightness of twilight.

The sun returned completely at 7:42 p.m., P.D.T., just a few moments before it set on the west-northwest horizon through the only haze of the day. Although the lawn was prime eclipse real estate, hundreds of people watched a live, realtime image of the eclipse on the Observatory coelostat, or solar telescope, at the west end of the Ahmanson Hall of the Sky. A live feed from the coelostat was also streamed to the big screens in the Gunther Depths of Space and in the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon theater.

Cars were parked farther down Western Canyon Road than anyone could remember. Vehicles attempting to reach either the eclipse at Griffith Observatory or an unrelated event at the Greek Theater, were  gridlocked all the way down to Los Feliz Boulevard and then a couple of miles east on Los Feliz to the offramp from the I-5 Golden State Freeway! Despite the difficulty in reaching Griffith Observatory, the large crowd, estimated as exceeding 4000, was spirited and enthusiastic. People contrived a variety of techniques for pinhole projection of the eclipsed sun, and some reflected the sun’s image onto the sides of the cylindrical elevator on the front lawn. Prompted by extensive media coverage of both the eclipse and the Griffith Observatory’s plans for it, the Observatory’s Stellar Emporium completely sold out of thousands of pairs of eclipse glasses on the Friday night before Sunday’s eclipse. In fact, the Stellar Emporium was one of the last retail outlets in the region to have any glasses on hand. A number of unauthorized eclipse entrepreneurs were cited by the Rangers for trying to scalp Griffith Observatory eclipse glasses on Observatory property!

Welcome Brett, Dee, and Patricia!

FOTO is pleased to announce that Brett Rodda, Demetrio Kerrison, and Patricia Casado have joined our Board of Directors.


The FOTO BOARD OF DIRECTORS are volunteers who are committed to Friends Of The Observatory's efforts to support and promote Griffith Observatory as a strong community centerpiece of scientific learning, education and public astronomy to the children, youth, and adults of Southern California and beyond. FOTO's Board members are drawn from a variety of professions and backgrounds, united in their enthusiasm for the Observatory and in the ongoing quest to improve its facilities and programs while planning for a robust future.


“…commanded his
first space shuttle
mission at the age
of 13. It may have
been in a simulator
at Space Camp in
Huntsville, Alabama,
but it was all part of
—Brett Rodda




“I want to support
the critical role
Griffith Observatory
plays in the greater
LA community.”
—Dee Kerrison






“Inspire the future, one imagination at a time.”


“Those are the words
that persuaded me
to become actively
involved in Griffith
Observatory. Like
most Angelenos,
I am proud of the
Observatory being a
part of our Southern
California landscape.
I saw the true beauty

of the Observatory, the
ability to capture the minds & spirits of young
people, no matter what their race and I wanted
to be a part of it.” —Patricia Casado

Mt. Wilson Inspires Again

Most of us are familiar with Colonel Griffith J. Griffith’s quote inscribed on the wall in Griffith Observatory’s Keck Rotunda: “If all mankind could look through that telescope it would change the world.” He was moved to say those words after looking through Mt. Wilson’s 60-inch telescope—at that time the largest telescope in the world.

FOTO members prove Colonel Griffith’s point. Viewing the cosmos from the 60-inch does encourage a perspective not found elsewhere. The curiosity and excitement demonstrated by FOTO members for trips of this sort reminds us all of the value of looking up and being a part of these excursions.


Each time FOTO has been able to offer a trip to Mt. Wilson to our members we have sold out—but not with the speed we did this time. Literally hours after we posted the June 16th eBlast invitation to join us up at Mt. Wilson for an evening on the 60-inch we had our full complement of 24!

“The whole trip was spectacular. My favorite thing was viewing Saturn, globular clusters, and nebula through the 60-inch telescope. What made it even more amazing was the historical significance of the 100 year old telescope we were looking through. We were walking in the footsteps of so many famous and significant astronomers and scientists such as Harlow Shapley, Edwin Hubble, and even Albert Einstein (and, in some cases even looking through the same lens they did).” — FOTO member MARY ANDREWS

A Recent Email from an Observatory Fan…
by George Willis
Subject: Re: Tell us your favorite Griffith Observatory story

In lieu of a story, I have an image I'd like to share. I took a photo recently of the observatory from our company's new work facility. After some experimenting with Photoshop I combined it with a famous painting. I call
the image “Griffith Van Gogh.”

For the Record:

An article published in the previous issue about the shuttle programs listed the incorrect name of the last shuttle disaster on 2/1/2003 as being the Shuttle Discovery instead of the correct name of the Shuttle Columbia.

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