Observatory Celebration Will Include
Variety of Events on
Friday, Nov. 22
Posted November 18, 2002
HOLLAND -- The Harry F. Frissel Observatory at
Hope College will be celebrated with a variety of events on
Friday, Nov. 22, including an open house and lecture.
The observatory, located on the roof of VanderWerf
Hall, became operational during the 2001-02 school year. It
was built with support from a $20,000 grant from Dr. James
W. Seeser of St. Louis, Mo., through the Saint Louis
Community Foundation, given in memory of former Hope physics
professor Dr. Harry Frissel.
Activities will include an open house that will
feature (weather permitting) the telescope in action on
Friday during three one-hour periods: 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., 1
p.m. to 2 p.m., and 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. The observatory is
reached through the main second-floor hallway of VanderWerf
Hall, which is located on 10th Street between Central and
On Friday at 3 p.m., Seeser will discuss "The
Making of the Mirrors for the Chandra X-ray Telescope" in
room 102 of VanderWerf Hall. The Chandra X-ray Observatory
is a satellite that orbits the earth one third of the
distance to the moon. Launched in July of 1999, Chandra
observes X-rays from high-energy regions of the universe,
such as the remnants of exploded stars.
The public is invited to the open house and the
seminar. Admission is free.
There will also be a banquet in the evening for
invited guests to celebrate the event.
The observatory at Hope features a 12-inch
telescope in a six-foot-diameter, computer-controlled dome,
as well as related equipment. The telescope offers its
views of the heavens not to rooftop-based humans looking
through it with the naked eye, but via computer control and
cable connections that make its images available in
classrooms and laboratories throughout VanderWerf Hall.
The college has had at least two other permanent
observatories in its history. The first, the Maria L.
Ackerman Hoyt Observatory, was built in 1894 on a hill near
Columbia Avenue and 12th Street. The observatory and hill
were removed in 1941. The second was built by then-senior
Jim Riggs in 1976 with the encouragement of the late Dr.
Richard Brockmeier, who was a member of the Hope physics and
computer science faculties from 1966 to 1993 and had a
strong interest in astronomy, teaching the course at Hope
until 1993. Also since removed, it was located on the Buys
Athletic Fields near Fairbanks Avenue.
Seeser taught at Hope from 1970 to 1976, serving
on the physics faculty and computer science faculty. He
recommended the Hope observatory project in Frissel's honor
in recognition of Frissel's mentorship while they were
faculty colleagues at Hope. Frissel, who was on the
college's physics faculty from 1948 until retiring in 1985
and served as department chair during Seeser's tenure, died
on March 18, 2000, at age 79.
Seeser subsequently went into industry, and he is
retired as vice president-technology from Optical Coating
Laboratory Inc. (OCLI), a Division of JDS Uniphase, after 18
years of service in various technical and business roles.
OCLI was the subcontractor for the iridium coating placed on
the Chandra mirrors.