Every season Astrocamp administration organizes a trip of some sort for the entire staff. Last Fall we went bowling and the season before that we took a trip on the Palm Springs Tram. Yesterday was by far my favorite though because of one word, museums! One museum was planned, The Griffith Observatory. The other museum was spontaneous and exclusive to only a couple of cars, the LACMA. We started out by just wandering through the exhibits at Griffith, checking out how they present much of the same information we teach our students at camp. Then we caught the planetarium show, which is spectacular. They have a laser projector that paints such a detailed night sky that with binoculars you can actually see nebulae in the areas of the sky where they are supposed to be, you can see the rings of Saturn, and the red spot on Jupiter. The show is narrated live, and the actor was superb. This was by far the best planetarium I have been to yet. After the show a former Astrocamper, who now works for Griffith AND The Natural History Museum, gave a us a tour of the famous Zeiss telescope. It is a twelve inch refracting telescope, which is mainly impressive because of it's age and because of the heavy use of the equipment. Since Griffith was built in 1935 more than seven million people have looked through the telescope. In terms of what can be seen through it though, we get better views from our telescopes in Idyllwild; largely due to light pollution. It is an impressive tool though. I forgot my camera, but I used my phone to take some shots of our trip. This is the dome that houses the planetarium.
The front lobby has some impressive murals done by artist Hugo Ballin titled 'History of Science'. There are some better pictures and captions at this website.
One of the most unique exhibits right now is called 'The Cosmic Connection', a time line of the cosmos illustrated by a vast stream of celestial themed jewelry. 2200 pieces of jewelry line the hallway to the lowest level of the museum. Most of the jewelry is from the 1930s to the 1960s, and there are almost no duplicate baubles.
The method for displaying the periodic table of elements is done extremely well at Griffith; my boss laughed when I asked if we could replicate this at camp. I volunteered to do painting and graphics, he just needs to supply samples of the elements. We'll see how that pans out.
The model of scale of various stars is also done quite well. Visual aids abound at The Griffith; I took lots of mental notes.
After Griffith a bunch of us decided to explore more of LA. The La Brea tar pits were on the agenda for all the staffers who aren't from California and had heard about them. Whoopie! Bubbling stinky pits with cheesy fake animals being sucked into them. When the thrill wore off I made my suggestion, "It's the second Tuesday of the month, LACMA is free today." It took little convincing and I soon found myself explaining the significance of Richard Serra and Tony Smith, amongst many others. One that was less simple to explain was this thing on the lawn; I have no clue why it was there, but it was.
I got a little thrill by peaking into an unfinished exhibition too. I love seeing behind the scenes of exhibits.
After the LACMA we made our way The Farmers Market, next door to The Grove, for dinner; I had the most delicious tacos and horchata at a place called Loteria!. Yesterday was, by far, my favorite staff trip yet.