SEMO is celebrating Space Week November 8-13 with a week of astronomy events to honor the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope.

SEMO has joined almost 500 sites across the country to celebrate the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, NASA’s next great space science observatory. 

The observatory will provide a new view of the cosmos and push the field of astronomy into a new era. The telescope will observe the universe in the infrared, peering inside dust clouds to study light from distant parts of the universe for the very first time – the first galaxies that formed about 13.5 billion years ago – and give us insight into how our universe formed. It will also explore distant worlds in other solar systems, as well as objects in our own solar system. Webb will extend the scientific discoveries of other NASA missions like the Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra X-ray Observatory, and Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite.

James Webb Space Telescope

Webb is the largest and most complex space science telescope ever built – the premier observatory of the next decade. This international mission, led by NASA in partnership with the European and Canadian space agencies, will launch in December 2021.


Monday, November 8

  • Night Sky Viewing (SEMO Mobile Astronomy Observatory in collaboration with Notre Dame High School)

    • Topic: Deep Sky/Lunar Observations
    • Location: Notre Dame High School Observatory
    • Time: 6 p.m.

Tuesday, November 9

  • Speaker: Dr. Margaret Hill

    • Topic: “What Became of the Dark?” (International Dark Sky Association)
    • Location: Johnson Hall 200
    • Time: 6 p.m.
    • Zoom
  • Night Sky Viewing

    • Topic: Deep Sky/Lunar Observations
    • Location: Southeast Missouri State University Sikeston Higher Ed Center
    • Time: 7 p.m. (Following Dark Sky Presentation)

Wednesday, November 10

  • Speaker: Dennis Vollink

    • Topic: “Photographing the Night Sky” Launch: Astro Photo Contest
    • Location: Johnson Hall 200
    • Time: 6 p.m.
    • Zoom

Thursday, November 11

  • Speaker: NASA Subject Mater Expert Christopher Willmer (Steward Observatory, University of Arizona)

    • Topic: “Exploring the Infrared from the Solar System to the most distant galaxies: the James Webb Space Telescope”
    • Location: Johnson Hall 200
    • Time: 6 p.m.
    • Zoom

Friday, November 12

  • Topic: Movie Night

    • "The Martian"
    • Location: Johnson Hall 200
    • Time: 6 p.m.

Saturday, November 13

  • Interactive Booths

    • Location: Magill Hall Quad
    • Time: 3-4 p.m.
  • Speaker: Astronomical Association of Southeast Missouri (AstroSEMO)

    • Topic: Webb Telescope Informational Presentation & “Locating Objects in the Night Sky”
    • Location: Johnson Hall 200
    • Time: 3-4 p.m. (drop-in)
    • Zoom
  • Keynote Speaker: Dr. Stephanie Howard (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Planetary Magnetospheres lab/Southeast Missouri State University Physics Alumni)

    • Topic: “Current Research on Solar System Planetary Magnetospheres”
    • Location: Johnson Hall 200
    • Time: 4:15 p.m.
    • Zoom
  • LIGHTS OUT! Night Sky Viewing (Sunset 4:49 p.m.)

    • Location: Magill Parking SEMO Mobil Astronomy Observatory
    • Time: 5:15 p.m.

Meet the Speakers

Dr. Margaret Hill

What’s Become of the Dark? The dark starlit night is a treasure and resource for all life on Earth, but the increasing glow of artificial light at night has obscured our view of the cosmos. What are the environmental and social costs of this light pollution, and what can be done to preserve our heritage and connection to the night sky? Dr. Margaret "Peggy" Hill joined the faculty of Southeast Missouri State University in 2000, where she taught courses in physics, astronomy, and science education. In 2017, she and Dr. Mike Rogers became lead volunteers for Citizen CATE Team-040, one of the 68 national sites dedicated to taking photographs during totality to study the time evolution of the sun’s corona. Peggy’s introduction to astronomy began with a small refracting telescope through which she was able to observe the Moon, Saturn’s rings, and motion of Jupiter’s tiny moons. While living in St. Louis she was a member of the St. Louis Astronomical Society and built her own Newtonian reflecting telescope, which she still uses, through a course offered there. Currently she is working with other like-minded folk to start an Astronomy Club here in Southeast Missouri.

Dennis Vollink

Dennis Vollink grew up in Michigan. He graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in 1974 and flew active duty for the Air Force for eight years. He spent 20 years in the Air Force Reserve, retiring as Lt. Colonel. He is a registered Professional Engineer (PE) in 20 states and has designed mechanical systems and help build hotels for 40 years with Drury Southwest in Cape Girardeau, MO. Dennis is a commercial pilot with more than 10,000 hours and still flies the company M2 Citation jet. His interest in astronomy started at when he was very young. He remembers he would stand in the snow in Michigan with his small telescope looking at Saturn and other stars. He expanded his passion for astrophysics by building an observatory at his home in Cape Girardeau over 12 years. He has become an avid photographer, attending conferences in Astro Imaging and partially self-teaching himself on the art of Astro Imaging. He says the field is amazing and there are some exciting people involved. He looks forward to sharing his passion with us during Space Week.

Christopher Willmer

Christopher is an astronomer at Steward Observatory (University of Arizona) who is part of the JWST Near Infrared Camera team since 2007. His professional interest is mapping the distribution of galaxies in space and understanding how these systems evolve over time. He provided the following for his topic: "Exploring the Infrared from the Solar System to the most distant galaxies: the James Webb Space Telescope."

Dr. Stephanie Howard

Stephanie Howard obtained her bachelor’s degree in Physics and Applied Mathematics from Southeast Missouri State University in 2014. She went on to obtain a PhD in Physics from the University of Iowa in 2020 where she researched resonant interactions between ultra low frequency plasma waves and reflected ions near the Moon. She currently works as a CRESST II postdoctoral researcher at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Planetary Magnetospheres Lab where she analyzes magnetometer data from spacecraft throughout the solar system. Her two research projects at the moment consist of using data from the MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN) spacecraft to study the Martian ionosphere, and using data from Voyager 2 to study Triton’s interaction with Neptune’s magnetosphere.

Seabaugh Polytechnic Building 301
Mailing Address
One University Plaza, MS 6800
Cape Girardeau, MO 63701