It was a beautiful night in LA so after doing a little research we decided to head to the Griffith Observatory. Mahina had managed to find out that between 5:54 and 5:58pm the International Space Station would be flying overhead of the Observatory, and conditions permitting we would be able to see it fly by.
We decided to make a trip of it and stopped to get dinner in downtown. Originally, we were planning to stop at the Nickel Diner that we had see on "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" a Food Network Channel great, but they were closed so instead we ended up at this funky pizza shop the Pitfire Pizza Company. We lucked out and the food was great... except for the homemade watermelon lemonade, worst idea ever.
As we drove up the long and windy road to the Observatory it became apparent that parking was going to be an issue, but instead of getting greedy and going for that one spot at the top that's sure to materialize when only you get there we found a spot along the road just a little ways down the hill. As soon as we were out of the car we were awestruck by the beauty of the city down below. It was a little hazy so the visibility wasn't as clear as it could have been, but the panoramic views of the city were just incredible. Due to an unforeseen road closure, we arrived at the Observatory right after the International Space Station would have made its way overhead, which sucked, but the exhibits in the Observatory made up for it.
Once we were inside we immediately headed over to buy our tickets for the "Center of the Universe" movie exhibit. By the time we got the tickets we only had a little bit of time before the movie started so we started to explore the Observatory before heading outside. The Observatory does a great job of making the science of Astronomy understandable and hands-on. There were plenty of diagrams, samples and pictures to explain everything you wanted to know about Astronomy.
Hands down though, the Center of the Universe move was the highlight of our trip. The movie is shown on a screen that is basically the entire ceiling of a dome. It's a sight to behold itself. The movie was basically Astronomy 101 with some incredible animation and real space images as well. We both thought that the movie was incredibly eye-opening and fascinating. Had Lucas seen it 10 years earlier, accounting might not have ever happened...
Right in the center of the Observatory where you walk in hangs a huge pendulum that is there to prove that the Earth is in fact rotating on its axis. It's a difficult concept to explain, but the basically because the pendulum is constantly swinging and always in the same direction if you setup some pins say 90 degrees to its right they will eventually come to be knocked over by the pendulum because the earth's rotation brought the pins into the path of the pendulum. It's pretty cool.
Another exhibit the Observatory had was about the planets in our solar system, and yes they still had Pluto up there. At each planet there was a lot of information about its size, mass and gravity with a scale on the floor so you could see what your weight would be on each planet.
We spent the last couple of hours checking out the rest of the Observatory before making our way over to the gift shop where we managed to pick up two 50 year paperweight calendars that were pretty nifty.