LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Dr. Laura Danly’s passion for the heavens took her to NASA and then on to one of the world’s most magnificent observatories.
“I really do think I kind of came into this world interested in astronomy,” she says. “I always just wanted to look up.”
And it’s her job to make sure the legendary L.A. landmark Griffith Observatory, which draws visitors night and day, fulfills its mission.
“The observatory is here to share sky with the public,” Danly says.
While mingling with visitors, Danly met a gentlemen named Sun.
“S-u-n, perfect!” Perfect because they were looking at a live, direct shot of the sun.
“Maybe you noticed the big dome,” she says, “and that holds a telescope, a solar telescope, and it just shoots light right down to a mirror, and this is a picture of the sun.”
All of the STEAM disciplines — science, technology, engineering, art and math — are in play at the observatory.
The observatory’s solar telescopes are are feats of math and engineering. Dr. Danly took us inside the dome and up the stairs to show us how they work. The mirrors reflect the sun’s surface and project it to a public viewing window below.
“Our Earth compared to the size of the sun is that big,” she says, pointing to a small image of Earth proportionally placed over a much larger image of the Sun.
Another device, called a spectroscope, separates and analyzes color.
“That’s how we were able to figure out what the Sun is made of,” Danly explains.
Different colors of light are the result of chemistry, and that’s where the observatory’s giant periodic table of elements comes into play. Scientists have analyzed the chemistry of the sun “by looking at how much light there is at every different color.”
Uranium, tin, silicon, lithium and more — they’ve all been detected on the Sun — so have all the elements that make up the human body.
“All of the elements that we’re made of are forged inside of the stars,” she explains.
So if you want to understand yourself better, Danly says try looking up.
“The relationship between our sun, stars and the elements of our bodies and of our planet is a very close relationship.”