Exhibits: Hall of the Eye

The Hall of the Eye illustrates the nature and progress of human observation of the sky and the tools used for that exploration. This exhibit gallery focuses on how people have observed the sky and the often profound impact those observations have had on people and society. Each of the four Hall of the Eye exhibit areas chart the key developments that have further evolved our ability to help our eyes see farther, fainter, and beyond.

Using the Sky Elegant and engaging Pepper's Ghost dioramas illustrate five examples of how people have used the sky for thousands of years to improve their lives and acquire important knowledge. Drawn from across history and around the world, the scenes show how observing the sky was fundamental to daily life until relatively recent times.

Extending the Eye By manipulating optical tools, telescopes, lenses, and mirrors, on this "workbench" in the center of the gallery, visitors begin to understand how the introduction of the telescope profoundly changed our observation of the sky and our perception of our place in the universe.

Observing in California A series of models, illustrations, and artifacts, including the original mirror plug from the 200-inch Palomar Mountain telescope, illustrate the pioneering role California observatories and researchers have played in discovering the modern universe. Supported by a competitive grant from the state of California, this area's four stations chart the transformation from individual telescopic observers to the massive research observatories which made California the Alexandria of modern astronomy in the late 19th and 20th centuries.

Beyond the Visible A large glass wall display features eye-popping visuals to reveal how our ability to detect and record radiation beyond visible light (gamma rays, x-rays, ultraviolet light, infrared, microwave, and radio waves) was the most recent transformation to opening wide the doorway to the universe. In doing so, this exhibit illustrates the most modern processes of astronomical observation and discovery.

Tesla Coil With its giant arcing sparks and unnerving noise, Griffith Observatory's Tesla Coil is one of its most memorable and iconic exhibits. Millions have seen it in operation, throwing its lightning-like discharges to the walls of its alcove. Now restored and moved to a new alcove designed to minimize its external electrical disruptions, the Tesla Coil is ready to thrill new generations of visitors. A Tesla coil converts low-voltage alternating current electricity to very high voltage and increases the frequency. It is named after its inventor, eccentric genius Nikola Tesla (1856-1943), who displayed his first model in 1891. The main aim of the Tesla coil was transmission of electricity through the air, part of a great dream to provide electricity without using wires. Electricity became widely available around 1900, when the first networks began to send power to homes and businesses over transmission lines. Because these networks were expensive to build, Tesla and others worked on wireless electrical transmission networks. The technology was difficult to implement, however, and it never got out of the laboratory. Despite this setback, the Westinghouse company did use Tesla's designs for generators and distribution systems to build a power station at Niagara Falls. Though not wireless, the power grid that we use to bring electricity to our homes today is based on Tesla's work.

Tesla coils have a long and colorful history in science and technology sideshows. Before the Griffith Observatory Tesla coil went on display in 1937, it belonged to Dr. Frederick Finch Strong. He was a physician and instructor at Tufts University in Massachusetts. Dr. Strong used electricity in the healing process and relied heavily on Tesla coils as part of his work. Eventually, he donated the major components of this instrument to the City of Los Angeles.


Camera Obscura A Camera Obscura is a basic observing tool that uses mirrors and lenses to focus light onto a flat surface. Griffith Observatory's new Camera Obscura is a larger and more capable version of a previous exhibit. The current version features a periscope-like tube on the east side of the Observatory's roof , which reflects images down onto the Camera Obscura table. With its continuously rotating tube, the Camera Obscura provides a spectacular 360°- field view of Los Angeles vistas and reminds visitors that they have reached an observational junction of earth and sky. The Observatory's new Camera Obscura instrument was built by George Keene.