We tell stories about the sky. We’ve been at it for over 85 years, but the tradition goes back thousands of years when people would gather around a fire and try to make sense of what they saw. Our shows are all stories that address the big questions: Who are we? Why are we here? Why does the universe look the way it does? All of the technology of the Samuel Oschin Planetarium is in service of telling these stories as effectively and impactfully as possible. We want viewers to ponder, to wonder, and to be inspired. Who better to tell a story than a person? Unlike most other planetaria, Griffith Observatory continues a long tradition of presenting exclusively live planetarium programs with a presenter who can connect with audiences and convey astronomical knowledge with enthusiasm and passion.
Imported from Germany, the Zeiss Universarium Mark IX star projector uses fiber-optic technology to deliver the most accurate and awe-inspiring planetarium dome full of stars anywhere. The computerized system offers visitors a detailed view of the night sky filled with thousands of stars and can be oriented to show what the sky looked like at any moment in human history. Griffith Observatory’s scientific team was able to negotiate a fundamental improvement to the standard star field and worked closely with Zeiss engineers to create an unprecedented night sky of remarkable accuracy. Zeiss is so proud of the outcome, they incorporated these refinements into subsequent projectors.
When the Samuel Oschin Planetarium opened in 2006, it was one of the first major facilities in the United States to use Evans & Sutherland’s cutting-edge, all-dome digital laser projection system. Two laser projectors – invisibly mounted in the north and south cove areas – were a giant step forward from the existing CRT video projectors. In 2015, the Digistar 3 laser projection system was upgraded to Digistar 5. The new projection system is comprised of six Christie 4K30, 3DLP projectors, including computer hardware and software upgrades.
The Digistar 5 projection system improves upon the laser video projection in three important ways:
- 8K resolution, 60 frames per second playback for large-format projection compared to 4K, 30 frames per second playback from our previous laser projectors
- Intensified color contrast and saturation
- Reduced distortion of images on the curved planetarium dome surface
- The 8K projection system transform the entire visual experience. For a dome as large as Griffith Observatory’s (76-foot (23 meters) diameter), the capabilities of the Christie projectors are the best way to bring engaging astronomical visuals to life.
This Digistar 5 projection system was made possible by a generous gift to Friends of the Observatory in 2015 from the Ahmanson Foundation. The gift also supported an upgrade to the sound and theatre control systems. The City of Los Angeles funded a conversion of the Theatrical lighting system to LEDs.
The Samuel Oschin Planetarium was one of the first to make use of the remarkable ‘seamless’ dome construction technology developed by Spitz, Inc., and demonstrated at the Soaring Over California attraction at Disney’s California Adventure. Though the dome is constructed of separate aluminum panels, the seams between the panels are designed to disappear with proper lighting. Tiny perforations across the dome enable audio speakers, ventilation ducts, and other equipment to be located above and around the outside of the dome, leaving the interior uncluttered. Properly lit, the dome seems infinite to the entering visitor, creating a uniquely immersive experience and a true-to-life re-creation of a remote, luminous, and pristine sky.
The Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Oschin Family Foundation
The naming of the Samuel Oschin Planetarium at Griffith Observatory is one of a long line of charitable gifts made by the Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Oschin Family Foundation. The Foundation strives to improve the future for many through its support of astronomy, medicine, education, the arts, animal causes, and a variety of community organizations. With interests ranging from telescopes to microscopes and everything in between, signature donations include the 48-inch Samuel Oschin Telescope at Palomar Observatory and the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Mrs. Oschin says her husband wished the Foundation would encourage others to share in the work of improving our world and bringing hope for the future through stimulating collaboration and building enthusiasm in a broad range of philanthropic projects. She notes that astronomy was her husband’s second love, and so perhaps it was inevitable that their path led to Griffith Observatory.
Mr. Oschin passed away in July 2003 and left a legacy to continue his work through the Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Oschin Family Foundation. Contributions to the City of Los Angeles and elsewhere, and to astronomers everywhere, will allow people to keep reaching for the stars for generations to come.