It's a great time to go star gazing.
No, we're not talking about the surgically enhanced, overly-pampered celebs who only make appearances at award ceremonies and DUI court hearings.
We're talking the other heavenly bodies that are visible in the sky this month, like Saturn's rings and Mars.
With warmer weather and clearer skies, now is the best time to view distant celestial objects that shine through the darkness and put all of our earthly problems into perspective.
But you don't have to be an astronomy buff or know the difference between a binary star and quasar to enjoy the sky's eternal light show.
Private and government-owned observatories across the country offer access to some of the country's most powerful telescopes. Astronomy experts are usually on hand during public sessions to answer even the dumbest questions.
Here is a list of 10 observatories that open their telescopes to the public:
Mount Wilson Observatory. This working observatory at the summit of Mount Wilson in the San Gabriel Mountains is home to one of the world's largest telescopes accessible to the public.
Visitors can tour the observatory every day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. from April 1 to Nov. 30. However, to peek through the 60-inch reflecting telescope (measured by the diameter of the mirror that reflects the light from the stars to an eyepiece) you must make a reservation and pay a fee.
Groups no bigger than 25 can reserve the telescope from dawn to 1 a.m. at a cost of $800, or from dawn to dusk for $1,500. For more details, call (626) 440-9016 or go to the observatory’s website.
Big Bear Solar Observatory. This solar telescope sits on an island in the middle of Big Bear Lake to reduce the image distortion when the sun heats the Earth. (With the proper telescope filters, you can stare at the sun, despite what your mother told you.)
Observatory workers are in the process of installing a new 1.6-meter solar telescope; an opening date is pending. Donation: $2. For updates and more details, call (909) 866 5791 or go to the website.
Griffith Park Observatory. Just a few miles from the iconic Hollywood sign, the Griffith Observatory offers the public free access to Zeiss, a 12-inch refracting telescope, believed to be the most-used telescope in the world. (Refracting telescopes are measured by the diameter of the glass that refracts the light to an eyepiece.)
Since the telescope was installed in 1935, more than 7 million people have looked through the Zeiss.
For more details, call (213) 473-0800 or go to the website.
Lowell Observatory. A mile west of downtown Flagstaff, Ariz., the Lowell Observatory is one of the oldest facilities of its kind in the nation.
Visitors can peer through the Alvan Clark 24-inch refracting telescope, an instrument so powerful that it was used at the turn of the century to look for life on Mars.
The public viewing program runs from June through August, Monday through Saturday, 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Fees: $6 for adults and $3 for youngsters.
For more details, call (928) 774-3358 or go to the website.
Ten great observatories in the West
Heavenly bodies await your perusal as clearer skies let distant objects like Mars and Saturn's rings shine through.
We've upgraded our reader commenting system. Learn more about the new features.
Los Angeles Times welcomes civil dialogue about our stories; you must register with the site to participate. We filter comments for language and adherence to our Terms of Service, but not for factual accuracy. By commenting, you agree to these legal terms. Please flag inappropriate comments.
Having technical problems? Check here for guidance.