Southeast Missouri State University student publication

SEMO Department of Chemistry and Physics welcomes new telescope to campus

Friday, September 23, 2022
(Left) Brianna Mills and Sophia Hodge observe the new telescope in Rhodes Hall room 301 after describing more about its functions and accessibility on Sept. 21. The telescope itself weighs around 300 pounds, and the tripod that it is mounted on during setup weighs around 75 pounds.
Photo by Emma Kratky

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

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

Assistant professor of chemistry and physics Jonathan Kessler said the plan to purchase the telescope started two years ago in the midst of the pandemic.

“We were kind of in that Covid period, and we were thinking, you know, it is a good opportunity to sort of get people outside, and doing something outside that was related to science,” 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 being able to see nebulas and galaxies.

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

One big struggle for allowing students on campus and the public access to the telescope is its setup process. The telescope itself weighs around 300 pounds and is around three feet tall. It has to be moved from Rhodes Hall to an outdoor area, which requires use of carts, the elevator and eventually some type of vehicle or cart to take it safely to an open area.

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

“Eventually the idea is that [the observatory] would house this particular telescope,” Kessler said.

Sophomore environmental science major and Astronomy Club president Brianna Mills said she was very excited about the new telescope.

“It was really cool because I felt like it would draw more people in to learn about astronomy,” Mills said. “To be able to like look through it and see something that's so far away from us so clearly was really cool.”

Mills said the Astronomy Club as a whole is excited for the new telescope because of the traction it will bring the club.

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

Treasurer of the Astronomy Club Sophia Hodge said she was glad the telescope could benefit more than just the people using it.

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