Local News: SEMO Chemistry and Physics Department Welcomes New Telescope to Campus (9/23/22)

(Left) Brianna Mills and Sophia Hodge observe the new telescope in Rhodes Hall 301 after describing more about its functionality and accessibility on September 21. The telescope itself weighs about 300 pounds, and the tripod it was mounted on during setup weighs around. 75 pounds.

Photography by Emma Kratke

A $20,000 telescope was purchased during the summer of 2022 by the Department of Chemistry and Physics which allows a more advanced look at space through the use of light reflection. The new telescope will be an educational resource for both the department and SEMO’s astronomy club.

The 16-inch LX200 is newer than any other current telescope owned by the division and offers more power in terms of what it can see and track in the sky.

Associate Professor of Chemistry and Physics Jonathan Kessler said the plan to purchase the telescope began two years ago in the midst of the pandemic.

“We’ve been kind of in that Covid period, and we’ve been thinking, you know, it’s a kind of good opportunity to get people outside, and do something outside in the sciences,” Kessler said.

Kessler also commented on the benefits of the new telescope and what it could offer both the department and the astronomy club, including the ability to see nebulae and galaxies.

“The general theory is that the bigger the telescope, the better the resolution. So you can sort of make finer details. In particular, this larger 16-inch telescope has the ability to collect more light, so we can see darker things in the sky,” Kessler said.

One big struggle to allow students on campus and public access to the telescope is in the setup process. The telescope itself weighs about 300 pounds and is about three feet high. It must be moved from Rhodes Hole to an outdoor area, which requires the use of wagons, an elevator and eventually some type of vehicle or wagon to move it safely to an open area.

Kessler also mentioned the prospect of working to build a permanent observatory near the campus that would make the telescope easier to access. He said the department would need to identify donors and allocate funds for this project.

“In the end, the idea is that [the observatory] Kessler said.

Ecology Club President Brianna Mills, president of the Astronomy Club, said she was very excited about the new telescope.

“It was really cool because I felt it would attract more people to learn about astronomy,” Mills said. “Being able to admire looking through it and seeing something so far away from us obviously was really cool.”

Mills said the astronomy club as a whole is excited about the new telescope because of the traction it will bring to the club.

“It really seemed like the university was recognizing us as a club that deserved their attention,” Mills said.

Astronomy Club treasurer Sophia Hodge said she was glad the telescope could benefit more than just the people who use it.

“It’s a really great opportunity for us, you know, to expand our program, expand our club. I think eventually they’re thinking of doing minor and major astronomy,” Hodge said. “It’s a great experience to use. [the telescope]. If it helps people decide that I might want to do something in science or something, I think it’s a great tool to have on campus.”

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