Public Telescopes

Putting Eyeball to Eyepiece

Griffith Observatory is one of the premier public observatories in the world. One of the principal reasons is the presence and regular availability of high-quality public telescopes. Griffith J. Griffith wanted the public to have the opportunity to look through a telescope, which he felt might broaden human perspective. Mounted in the copper-clad domes on either end of the building, the Zeiss and solar telescopes are free to the public every day and night the building is open, and the sky is clear.

Zeiss Telescope

Zeiss Telescopes

Since opening in 1935, more than seven million people have put an eye to Griffith Observatory’s original 12-inch Zeiss refracting telescope. More people have looked though it than any other telescope in the world. Located in the roof-top dome on the building’s east end, the Zeiss telescope is intended mainly for nighttime viewing by the general public, commonly targeting the Moon, planets, and brightest showpiece objects of our galaxy. A popular public destination when special celestial events occur, more people viewed Halley’s Comet and comets Hale-Bopp and Hyakutake through the Observatory’s Zeiss telescope than any other telescope on the planet.


Coelostat & Solar Telescopes

Griffith Observatory’s three solar telescopes bring the Sun directly to visitors in the west rotunda of the Ahmanson Hall of the Sky. On clear days, each of these telescopes provides a different real-time view of our local star, including sunspots and solar flares. The three beams of sunlight for the telescopes are focused into the rotunda by a triple-mirrored tracking device called a coelostat (Greek for ‘sky-stopper’), which is located above in the western dome of the building. The solar telescopes operate only during clear daytime hours. A station in the gallery receives live signals from each of the telescopes to provide an equivalent observing experience for those unable to climb the stairs to the rotunda where the telescopes are mounted.

A boy looks through a telescope at the Griffith Observatory.

Other Public Telescopes

On any given night, Observatory staff may set up one or more free-standing telescopes on the front sidewalks to enable more people to put their eyeball to the sky. In addition, the Observatory has mounted a number of coin-operated telescopes along the south and west perimeters of the building. These devices enable visitors to look at objects in the Los Angeles Basin and surrounding mountains.