The director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, which operates NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the soon-to-be-launched James Webb Space Telescope, will speak on campus as part of The University of Toledo’s continuing celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Ritter Astrophysics Research Center.
The free, public event featuring Dr. Ken Sembach and titled “Great Observatories, Present and Future” will take place Thursday, Feb. 22, at 6:30 p.m. in Wolfe Hall Room 1205.“Some telescopes are put into space to get above the blurring of our atmosphere and to detect light that our atmosphere otherwise blocks,” said Dr. Jillian Bornak, associate lecturer in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, and chair of the UT Astronomy 50th Anniversary Committee. “Dr. Sembach will talk to us about these great observatories and lay out the foundation for why we are excited for the view of the universe that the Webb telescope will give us.”
Toledo has historic connections to deep space exploration and unraveling the mysteries of the universe.
In 1946, an astrophysicist from Toledo named Lyman Spitzer Jr. proposed building telescopes in space. Today, UT researchers and students use Spitzer and NASA’s other space telescopes by downloading the data and engaging in the exploration of the universe from Ritter.
The James Webb Space Telescope, which will be the largest and most powerful when launched into orbit next year, is named in honor of Dr. James Webb, who received an honorary degree at the dedication of UT’s Ritter facility Oct. 13, 1967. Webb was the head of NASA at that time.
The Space Telescope Science Institute is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, which UT was selected to join in 2016 in recognition of the astronomy and astrophysics program’s strengths in research, education and outreach.
Before becoming director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, Sembach served as interim director, Hubble mission head and Hubble project scientist. Previously, Sembach was the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer deputy project scientist for Large Science Programs at Johns Hopkins University. He also was a NASA Hubble Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Sembach received a bachelor’s degree in physics with honors in 1988 from the University of Chicago and a PhD in astronomy in 1992 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.