Observatory's science lacking?

creditLike most everyone else who has toured the newly expanded Griffith Observatory, Orange County Register science editor Gary Robbins was impressed by the aesthetics. "You'll want to hug the army of people who renovated the observatory, an icon in the Hollywood Hills since it opened in 1935," he wrote in last weekend's Travel section. But he is disappointed by the "inexplicable, museum-like approach to the rapidly changing field of astronomy and astrophysics....a static approach to some of the most important issues in space science notably the exploration of our moon."

You will find a large model of the moon. But it isn't very informative, and the observatory virtually ignores the fact the United States, China and Japan are planning to send robots and possibly humans to the moon, which is the easiest object to see in the night sky. This reveals a stunning lack of understanding of what's important to the public. I wasn't much more impressed by the observatory's treatment of Mars, where two rovers are now at work on the planet's surface. Many visitors will reach the lower level of one of the new science halls through a corridor called the "worm hole." But there's no scientific explanation of a worm hole.

And while I sort of like the new suspended replicas of our solar system's planets, I was surprised to learn from an observatory official that they will continue to refer to Pluto as a planet. As you know, the International Astronomical Union recently downgraded Pluto to dwarf-planet status. Griffith is a place of science, and should operate like one.

Reviews should start coming apace with the observatory due to reopen to the public Nov. 3. The Register's story includes a nice slide show of photos by Leonard Ortiz.


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