James Dean and meteorites at the Griffith Observatory

I hop on the scale, and I’m thrilled to see that it reads ’55 pounds.’ Sweet, the diet has paid off!

I’m surprised at the low figure, but I have no doubt it’s accurate. Of course, we’re not talking about my weight on Earth – we’re talking about my weight on Mercury.

That’s according to a scale inside the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, which has adjusted-weight scales for all nine planets and the moon. I’m 133 on Venus and 347 on Jupiter, but just ten pounds on Pluto.

planet Griffith Observatory

Located on a hill overlooking the city, the Observatory also has giant telescopes, interactive space debris exhibits where you can explode virtual meteors into the Earth’s surface to view the potential damage, and much more.

It’s a great place for anyone who’s interested in science and the solar system. Or anyone who just wants a killer view of L.A.

Telescope Griffith Observatory

Griffith J. Griffith – what a strange man

The land that the Observatory sits on was donated in 1896 by wealthy industrialist Griffith J. Griffith. (Tell me that isn’t the most awesome name you’ve ever heard.) The 3000+ acres he donated became Griffith Park, where the Observatory resides.

This seemingly-wonderful philanthropist apparently had a temper, because in 1903 he shot his wife in the face, for which he served all of two years in prison. And the city even kept his name on the park!

Griffith Observatory telescope

Great views of Los Angeles from the Griffith Observatory

As its names implies, the Observatory sits high on a hill, allowing visitors to look out from the observation terraces to see the Pacific Ocean and Santa Monica to the west, downtown LA to the southeast, and most of the rest of the city to the south.

One of the first things I noticed while walking over to glance at the Hollywood sign was a bust of James Dean that seemed completely out of place. Not being a ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ fan, I had no idea that parts of the movie were filmed here.

Shouldn’t there be a plaque or something explaining this? Most of us were born after 1960 – it shouldn’t be assumed that we know these things!

James Dean bust Griffith Observatory

Exhibits inside the Observatory

Inside the Observatory, you’ll find displays with model telescopes, close-up photographs of the sun and the Milky Way, a Foucault Pendulum and much more.

You can see actual meteorites from outer space and even touch one of them. It’s really freaky to hold something that didn’t come from our planet.

I’m not missing any fingers – it just looks that way because of how I’m holding it.

Griffith Observatory meteorite

Tips for visiting the Griffith Observatory

You can visit Griffith any time, but if you go during the day from Wednesday to Sunday, you’re able to go inside and look at the scientific displays and space exhibits. The Observatory is entirely free, unless you want to see a planetarium show, in which case you’ll encounter a small ticket fee.

Parking can be a nightmare during popular times, like weekend afternoons, so be prepared. You may have to park far away and hike 15 minutes or more to get up to the site.

If you want to go inside to see the exhibits, check out the Observatory’s hours.

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About Scott Shetler

Scott is a Chicago-based journalist and blogger who seeks out quirky sights and awesome destinations throughout North America and beyond.

8 comments on “James Dean and meteorites at the Griffith Observatory

  1. What a great place to visit. That’s pretty interesting about Griffith J Griffith — yes, it’s a very cool name. What a guy — only two years in prison and a park named after him?? Justice was not served, I think!

    • I felt the same about LA at first but now I want to move there (for a while, at least.) I agree the traffic is the worst part – I’d want to live within walking distance of the Santa Monica bus so I would have easy access to most of the city.

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