Kent Library Partners with St. Louis Astronomical Society’s Library Telescope Program

Southeast Missouri State University’s Kent Library is pairing with the St. Louis Astronomical Society (SLAS) to increase area residents’ knowledge of objects in the night sky as part of the Library Telescope Program.

Beginning Sept. 9, individuals with a valid library card will be able to check out an Orion StarBlast 4.5-inch telescope for a seven-day period.

“The telescopes provide a platform for education and programming,” said Christy Mershon, director of Southeast’s Continuing and Extended Education.

In addition, the Cape Girardeau Public Library also has received a telescope. Each telescope is modified by SLAS to be more durable and patron friendly and is equipped with accessories to help library patrons explore the night sky, including a user’s manual, constellation guide, Moon map and night light.

“It’s a very cool piece of equipment that will create access to the sky for our patrons,” said Abigail Wheetley, instructional materials specialist at Southeast’s Kent Library. “It’s going to be a great opportunity for them to experience the cloud bands on Jupiter, the rings on Saturn, the craters on the moon and so much more.”

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Abigail Wheetley (right) trains staff at Southeast’s Kent Library on the Orion StarBlast 4.5-inch telescope.

Throughout the year, Kent Library and Southeast’s Continuing and Extended Education will host star parties and astronomically themed events. They hope to give students and the community an opportunity to learn more about astronomy and how telescopes can be used to explore plants and other objects in the night sky, said Mershon. One of the largest astronomical upcoming events will be a total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017, with Cape Girardeau being ideally placed for viewing.

“This is a great way to bring together the University and community for education on the solar eclipse,” she said. “Even though the telescope itself is unsafe for viewing the eclipse, the upcoming events this next year will help build our community’s education and excitement for all things astrology. It’s a great tool for kids and adults alike.”

Southeast will also continue to partner with SLAS and the Cape Girardeau Public Library to provide ongoing education support and telescope maintenance.

“We’re really excited to work with the St. Louis Astronomical Society,” said Wheetley. “We are delighted to be a part of their mission and bring this telescope to our students and community.”

The telescopes were made possible by donations from Ken and Vicki Zickfield of Zickfield’s Jewelry and Gifts in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and Timothy Domian, a financial advisor for Edward Jones in Cape Girardeau.

The St. Louis Astronomical Society Library Telescope Program seeks to foster scientific literacy, stimulate an interest in astronomy, and provide people who have never looked through a telescope the chance to experience the excitement that comes from discovery. The program takes advantage of the public library system infrastructure to place telescopes in local public libraries for circulation just like a book.