Cape Girardeau, MO man has his own private observatory

Science lover builds observatory, ready for eclipse
Published: Jun. 14, 2017 at 1:54 AM CDT|Updated: Jun. 20, 2017 at 10:20 PM CDT
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - You'd be hard pressed to find anyone around here who is more devoted to star gazing than Dennis Vollink.

He's not a science teacher, a physics professor or an astrophysicist.  But he can probably tell you just as much about our universe as they can.

When Dennis isn't on a job site overseeing the latest Drury hotel construction, the President of Drury Southwest can be found in the same house, in the same quiet neighborhood where he and his wife Kathy have lived for nearly 40 years.

The house in Cape Girardeau looks like any other.  It has a little brick, a little siding and a manicured lawn.  But when you look over the garage, the similarities end.  Dennis has installed an observatory.

He fell in love with astronomy many moons ago.  It's a passion that he shared with his young family long before the observatory was constructed.

"When we first bought this house, we would pull a big telescope out in the driveway," remembered Dennis. But about ten years ago, Dennis decided to go inside and go big.

He added the observatory and much more.

A ladder takes you up to the observatory, housed in a small room.  There's not much elbow room here, but Dennis doesn't need it.  He has his refraction telescope, computer and over in the corner, a makeshift bed.

"I have to manually move the dome about every half hour so it's easier to just sleep up here, set the alarm, get up and move the dome," Dennis said smiling.

Depending on job demands and the weather, Dennis is up here four or five nights a week taking pictures of galaxies and stars hundreds of thousands of light years away.

Night after night he'll take the same image, because it takes four or five nights to capture all the information for one picture.  It's painstaking work that he loves.

When he produces stunning pictures of the moon, galaxies, the sun, and other spectacular wonders, it's all worth it.

"You're literally seeing creation taking place," Dennis remarks.

As the heartland has the best seat for the first total solar eclipse in 26 years,  Dennis can't wait for August 21.  He'll be at Notre Dame High School, with teachers and students watching the eclipse.

He was a big proponent and financial supporter of the school's observatory.

Dennis loves what all the hype means for his passion, "People are interested in space and the sciences and that's exciting."

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