Physics Scholars Presenting ‘Astronomy at the Crossroads’ on Eve of Solar Eclipse

“Astronomy at the Crossroads” will be the topic of a presentation by two physics scholars on the eve, Aug. 20, of the Great American Solar Eclipse at Southeast Missouri State University.

Dr. Phillip Reed, associate professor of physics and astronomy and director of the Planetarium and Observatory at Kutztown University, and Dr. Margaret “Peggy” Hill, professor of physics at Southeast Missouri State University, will deliver a joint presentation to help the community better understand the science and wonder behind this natural phenomenon and explain why there is more to the skies than just star gazing.

This free community event is scheduled for 2 p.m. Aug. 20 in Glenn Auditorium of Robert A. Dempster Hall.

Reed and Hill also will discuss their research and the opportunities available for undergraduate students to learn more about astronomy.

In addition, Reed, a guest astronomer, will bring two telescopes with him for public viewing of the eclipse from Houck Field on Aug. 21. One will have a hydrogen alpha filter for viewing the surface texture of the sun. The other will be a white light telescope with a filter.

Several telescopes will be available for students and visitors to view the eclipse that day, including those provided by Dennis Vollink, president of Drury Southwest Inc. and a local astrophotographer whose passion for the depths of the universe led to the creation of his own observatory atop his home in Cape Girardeau.

Reed, Hill and Vollink will help guide those interested in getting an up-close look at this rare event through the lenses of powerful telescopes set up on the field Aug. 21.

Dr. Phillip Reed, associate professor of physics and astronomy and director of the Planetarium and Observatory at Kutztown University.

Reed’s expertise lends itself well to the Great American Solar Eclipse to be viewed from Southeast. His research interests focus on astrophysics, stellar evolution and magnetic fields, interacting binary stars and triple star systems, extrasolar planets, observational astronomy (photometry and spectroscopy) and ultraviolet spectroscopy. At Kutztown, he teaches introductory astronomy, upper-level astronomy and physics courses, and leads undergraduate students on research projects. He also advises the Physics Club and is active in the Kutztown University Astronomy Outreach Program. He holds doctoral and master’s degrees in physics from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Hill received a Bachelor of Science in physics from the College of William & Mary in 1976, then taught high school physics and physical science for several years before returning to school to complete her master’s and doctoral degrees in magnetic materials research at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.  She currently teaches physics and physics education classes, and mentors undergraduates in research.  Hill has been an avid amateur astronomer for many years, building her own 6” Newtonian reflecting telescope through a class taught by the St. Louis Astronomical Society in 1985, which she still uses today. Along with Dr. Mike Rodgers in the Department of Chemistry, she is one of the lead volunteers for the Perryville-040 site in the Citizen CATE Experiment to study the solar corona during the 2017 total solar eclipse.

Vollink, who will join the two physics scholars on Houck Field Aug. 21, earned a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering from the U.S. Air Force Academy and completed pilot training at Laughlin Air Force Base. He completed coursework towards a master’s degree at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. In addition to serving as president of Drury Southwest, Inc., he is the 2015 recipient of the Rush H. Limbaugh Award Winner for his leadership and involvement in the Cape Girardeau community. He is also an avid photographer.

For more information about the “Astronomy at the Crossroads presentation” and the presenters, visit eclipse.semo.edu.