Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Hittin' the Griff and the Shack

Astronomy and I are old acquaintances. The first time that I really learned about astronomy was in the seventh grade and I remember barely understanding the difference between the two types of eclipses and what was where during each type. Then during my sophomore year of high school the EHS-MER performed a sun-moon-stars themed show. It didn't expand my knowledge about the universe, but it did inspire my first two tattoos. Finally in college, I chose astronomy as a GE class to get out of taking math. I don't remember a single thing I learned, but I do remember that the professor was British and had a dreamy accent.

Recently, I finished watching season 1 of "Ancient Aliens." (The History Channel is currently showing season 2 but much like the light traveling from stars that takes years to reach us, I'm late.) The series presented a variety of evidence to support the theory that our ancient civilizations were visited by aliens. I can't even begin to start to outline the theory here, but if you saw AVP, that's close enough. I thoroughly enjoyed the series and if there was one thing that transfixed me, it was the scenes they would show of the changing night sky. The effects of the stars rotating around ancient pyramids and temples reminded me of seeing stars against the backdrop of desert rocks. (Back in August, I made the trek out to Joshua Tree to check out the Perseid Meteor Shower.) I imagine that being out in the middle of nowhere and being able to see the stars so clearly is the closest we'll ever come to what our ancestors felt like when they looked at the night sky. Their days, of course, weren't filled with the stress and worry that ours are, but their nights must have been filled with wonder and awe.

So after weeks of scouring the website, I finally drove up to Griffith Park Observatory to check it out in person. I haven't been this excited about going to a new place in a long time. And much like the vast universe that remains unexplored, I know I only saw a mere fraction of what you can see and do there. It totally brought back the days of seventh grade science, the college astronomy class and surprisingly, high school chemistry!

My goal was to check out "Centered in the Universe," the main film that is shown in the Planetarium. I think it was designed to be a 101 "Intro" type film which is why I wanted to see it, but there are still some things that confuse me. In addition to the usual questions--Who are we? Why are we here?--I think I need to brush up on the difference between stars, galaxies, etc. I may even join an astronomy meetup group, but truthfully, all I want to do is lay on a blanket and look at stars. Or sit in my car and look at stars through the moonroof.

As I left the observatory, I could think of only one thing that would make my trip out to LA complete: a Tommy's run. It's been years since I've been to the Shack and I wondered if I could even get myself there from Griffith Park. As I drove down the hill, clouds rolled in and prevented me from using the stars to guide me, so I used my VZ Navigator instead.

Star-gazing and chili-cheese fries? If only my ancient ancestors had been so lucky.

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