SoCal’s Own Piece of the Universe

Southern California offers a wide variety of options for sci-fi lovers to take “one small step” into outer space

Griffith Observatory

Photo Courtesy of Library of Congress

With an outstanding view of Los Angeles and the Hollywood Sign, the Griffith Observatory is one of the city’s famous tourist attractions. The Observatory offers visitors free admission and public telescopes every evening to see the clear, bright sky as well as public star parties where guests can partake in monthly stargazing events from 2 p.m. to 9:45 p.m.. Additionally, in its Centered in the Universe show, visitors can explore the universe’s expansive constellation and listen to scientific theories and stories through a Zeiss Universarium Mark IX star projector. Due to the pandemic, the Observatory has adapted its programs to the new circumstances by creating virtual activities such as All Space Considered and DIY: Process Your Own Juno Images so guests can enjoy the Griffith Observatory experience remotely. “I have never been [to the Griffith Observatory] before, but I’ve seen photos of it on social media. It seems like such a cool place to visit,” junior Katie Kim said.


Columbia Memorial Space Center

Photo Courtesy of The U.S. National Archives

The Columbia Memorial Space Center started in 2009 in Downey, CA as a museum that provides hands-on activities and models about space. The museum stands in honor of NASA’s Space Shuttle Columbia, which disintegrated in 2003 amid its return voyage to Earth, killing the seven astronauts on board. The front of the museum houses the Apollo Boilerplate 12 which was the first full-scale test flight to launch on a Little Joe II booster vehicle. The museum partnered with the California Institute of Technology’s Children’s Center, created the Girls in STEM Club and provided Boy, Girl and Cub Scout workshops to encourage young children to get involved in science. Tickets to visit range from $0 to $5 and high school students who are passionate in science and engineering can volunteer here when they are at least 16 years old or older. Due to the pandemic, the Center has been closed for the time being, but guests can still receive updates on its virtual programs and summer camp on the Columbia Memorial Space Center website.





California Science Center

Photo Courtesy of California Science Center

The California Science Center, home to various hands-on science exhibits and a large collection of Apollo spacesuits, is located in the heart of Los Angeles. The Center is one of the only places in the world to have a complete shuttle stack and includes spaceships and models for visitors to learn more about the history of space travel. “I have heard and attended the California Science Center multiple times. There are many things to see there, [and] their space exhibitions are very interesting,” sophomore Lindsay Cheung said. “I would recommend people to visit this place. Even if they don’t find too much interest in science, there are so many interactive activities, a food court and it is in LA, [where] you could go walk around the city [after your visit].” The museum is currently temporarily closed due to the pandemic, however, visitors can check on the museum website for updates on re-opening.



Photo Courtesy of Renette Stowe

Vazquez Rocks 

Located in the Sierra Pelona Mountains, north of Los Angeles County, the Vasquez Rocks is one of California’s hiking trails and national parks. The trails are 2.5 miles long and visitors are allowed to hike with their dogs, as long as they are kept on a leash. Many of its visitors admire the prehistoric rocks and sedimentary layers as well as its tallest peak that rises 150 feet above the ground and stretches 22,000 feet below the earth. Sci-fi movie fans may recognize the familiar reddish-brown rock formations from the infamous battle between Kirk and the Gorn in the original “Star Trek” series as well as other films in “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and the 1999’s classic “Galaxy Quest.” According to Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation, trails are open to the public, however social distancing and face coverings, continue to be enforced to regulate the spread of COVID-19. “[In] the pictures [Vasquez Rocks] looks very bright and warm. I would like to visit [the] Vasquez Rocks with my family or hike there with friends,” sophomore Emily Purevtseren said.