The Solar System Lawn Model shows the relative size of the orbits of the planets (and Pluto) around the Sun. The center of the solar system is located in front of the Observatory’s North Doors. Students can compare the relative distances of the planets by standing on the inlaid bronze plaques and orbit lines. The Lawn Model is designed to complement the planet models scaled for size in the Gunther Depths of Space gallery. Ask the students why it is difficult to show the size of the planets and their orbits to scale in one exhibit? (ANSWER: Any exhibit showing the planets’ size to scale would be much too large for the front lawn!)

Using the Sundial, students will estimate the current time without looking at a watch. Check a watch to compare accuracy of the Sundial. Ask the students how close the times are and why they are different? (ANSWER: We use different “time zones” to approximate the local time, but the actual time can vary depending on where you are located in your time zone. In addition, at different times of the year the Sun can be slightly ahead or behind the time determined from the local meridian. More advanced students may be interested to learn more about the analemma, or the equation of time.)
Upon arrival at Griffith Observatory students see first the Astronomers Monument. The Astronomers Monument is a large outdoor concrete sculpture on the front lawn that spotlights six of the greatest astronomers of all time.
  • Hipparchus (about 150 B.C.), Greek astronomer, geographer, and mathematician of the Hellenistic period.
  • Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543), the astronomer who reorganized the solar system with the Sun at the center.
  • Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), Italian astronomer, physicist, mathematician, and philosopher who played a major role in the scientific revolution and promoted astronomical discovery with the telescope.
  • Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), German astronomer and mathematician who discovered the laws of planetary motion.
  • Isaac Newton (1642-1727), English astronomer, physicist, natural philosopher, and mathematician who discovered the laws of gravitation and motion.
  • William Herschel (1738-1822), German-born English astronomer who discovered the planet Uranus and infrared radiation and first mapped the Milky Way Galaxy.
While circling the monument, discuss some of the major accomplishments of the famous scientists depicted in the sculpture.

The Meridian Arc in the Gottlieb Transit Corridor immerses students in the motions of the Sun, Moon, and stars across the sky and demonstrates how these motions are linked with time and the calendar. The passage of time and the cycle of the seasons is fundamental knowledge. Using the Meridian Arc, students will observe the Sun’s daily passage (transit) across the north-south line (meridian) at local solar noon and will see on the Ecliptic Chart which stars are currently in the sky with the Sun. The Meridian Arc also demonstrates how the Sun changes its elevation along the north-south arc that bridges the sky (celestial meridian). Similar observations have been made by people all over the Earth since antiquity.