Each year the Department of Astronomy at San Diego State University, in conjunction with the Mount Laguna Observatory Associates, hosts a public lecture in memory of late professor John D. Schopp. Dr. Schopp was deeply appreciated by his colleagues and students and the lecture series honors his love of astronomy and his devotion to sharing knowledge.

2023 Lecture Information

Zoom Recording of 2023 Lecture held on February 24th

Speaker: Rachel Bezanson, Associate Professor at University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Physics and Astronomy and PITT-PACC

Title: Peering into distant universe with the new James Webb Space Telescope

Abstract: The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), NASA’s latest great flagship observatory, was built in part to reveal the earliest moments of cosmic history. Over the last ~6 months since it began releasing data to the public, JWST has enthralled scientists and the public alike with the incredible images and spectroscopic information from astronomical objects as nearby as our solar system and beyond to the most distant reaches of the Universe. Astronomers have set distance records, found galaxies that may be significantly larger than models suggest could exist, and demonstrated that in some cases galaxy formation was earlier and more rapid than we had ever expected. In some ways, the detailed properties of these nascent galaxies are very different from their descendants today, for example the infrared view has shown evolved regular spiral galaxies like the Milky Way may have fully formed much earlier than our view from the Hubble Space Telescope had suggested. And yet other studies have found much younger galaxies with gas reservoirs that have barely been enriched by generations of stars.

In this talk, I will describe my UNCOVER (Ultradeep NIRSpec and NIRCam ObserVations before the Epoch of Reionization) Treasury program that completed its first epoch of observations in November 2022. These ultradeep images focus on a relatively nearby giant cluster of galaxies, which acts as a cosmic magnifying glass, boosting the light from background distant galaxies. This coming summer we will come back to the field and take spectra of ~500-1000 exciting sources, splitting their light into rainbows. These more detailed spectra will confirm distances and uncover the physical nature of these galaxies.


Brief Biography

Contributed by former student Richard L. Moyer and Mrs. Fay Schopp (4/30/2001)

John Schopp was born on October 18, 1927, in St. Joseph, Missouri. He received his Bachelor of Science in Astronomy from Northwestern University in 1949 and his Doctorate in Astronomy from Princeton University in 1954. His first faculty position was at the University of Missouri. He left MU to join the faculty at SDSU in 1962.

Upon John’s departure from MU, the following statement appeared in the student newspaper, endorsed by hundreds of signatures:

To Dr. John D. Schopp

We, students, friends, and colleagues, wish to express our appreciation to you for your friendship, excellent teaching, and unselfish dedication to racial equality.

At SDSU, John was instrumental in developing the very successful master’s degree program in astronomy and was graduate advisor for many years. He organized summer institutes in astronomy for high school science teachers. In 1975, he was local organizing committee chairman for the 146th meeting of the American Astronomical Society, which met in San Diego for the first time. He also served as associate dean of the College of Sciences for ten years.

John prepared thoughtful lectures for his students, asked thought-provoking questions in the classroom and on exams, and assigned grades with great care. He mentored new faculty members on the art and craft of teaching.

John had many interests and passions. An early advocate of the civil rights movement, he was once arrested for participating in a CORE-sponsored sit-in at Columbia, Missouri. Following his strong convictions against the Vietnam War, he became alocal organizer for the Peace and Freedom Party of California.

As a young man, John was a skilled catcher and hoped to become a professional baseball player. That did not work out, so he became an astronomer instead. He still liked playing baseball and listening to the games, though. He was a voracious reader of literature, history, and adventure stories. The exploits of the early Antarctic explorers fascinated him, especially the expeditions of Sir Ernest Shackleton. John also appreciated classical music. He developed a deep understanding of and abiding love for the piano sonatas and string quartets of Beethoven. In his later years, he took up the Japanese board game of Go.

Above all, John liked being around people and seldom passed up an opportunity to enjoy the company of others. He relished the exchange of ideas and opinions.

John’s refuge was his peaceful garden, which he and his wife, Fay, nurtured with skill and devotion. He frequently invited the entire astronomy department, along with others from the SDSU community, to the garden for light refreshment and good conversation on Friday afternoons.

John Schopp died on November 9, 1988, from a heart attack he suffered while playing Go with friends in his beloved garden. Those who knew him miss his wit and warmth.

John Schopp

We are fortunate to have a video record of John Schopp interviewing Harlow Shapley in October 1966.  Shapley, one of the giants of 20th century Astronomy, visited San Diego State College at that time, probably in connection with the Sigma Xi Lecture Series.  John Schopp interviewed Shapley on KEBS-TV Ch. 15 about his accomplishments and the future of Astronomy.  The session was recorded and copied to DVD format in February 2013.


Previous Lectures

1990 November 1: Dr. David Devorkin, National Air & Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution. “Science With a Vengeance”

1991 November 15: Dr. Owen Gingerich, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. “Conflicts between Galileo and the Church”

1994 February 5: Dr. Sallie L. Balliunas, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. “The Solar-Stellar Connection”

1995 March 31: Dr. Geoffrey Burbidge, Center for Astrophysics and Space Science, University of California, San Diego. “In the Beginning … or Was There One?”

1996 May 3: Dr. Geoffrey W. Marcy, Department of Astronomy University of California, Berkeley. “Extra-Solar System Planets”

1997 April 26: Dr. Ben M. Zuckerman, Department of Astronomy University of California, Los Angeles. “Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Martian Microorganisms, Project Phoenix, and the Keck Telescope”

1998 February 28: Dr. Michael Shara, Space Telescope Science Institute. “Cosmic Vision: What is the Hubble Space Telescope Telling Us About the Universe?”

1999 May 15: Dr. Virginia L. Trimble, University of California, Irvine. “Cosmology: Man’s Place in the Universe”

2000 April 8: Dr. Alexei Filippenko, University of California, Berkeley. “Einstein’s Biggest Blunder? The Case for Cosmic ‘Antigravity'”

2001 April 20: Major General Charles F. Bolden, Jr., United States Marine Corps. “A Marine Aviator’s Dream Come True: The Hubble Space Telescope – Journey to Orbit”

2002 April 19: Dr. Joseph F. Dolan, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. “Gravitational Lenses and the Hubble Constant”

2003 March 14: Dr. Donald W. Kurtz, University of Central Lancashire, UK. “Astroseismology, the Real Music of the Spheres”

2004 April 30: Dr. Edward L. (Ned) Wright, University of California, Los Angeles. “Observing the Origin of the Universe”

2005 March 11: Dr. Edward F. Guinan, Villanova University. “The Young and Restless Sun”

2006 April 7: Dr. Michael E. Brown, California Institute of Technology. “Beyond Pluto: Discovery of the 10th Planet”

2007 April 13: Dr. Mario Livio, Space Telescope Science Institute. “Symmetry: From Human Perception and Mate Selection to the Laws of Nature”

2008 May 9: Dr. Mark Phillips, Associate Director of the Las Campanas Observatory. “Exploding Stars and the Fate of the Universe”

2009 April 27: Dr. Steven A. Hawley, Professor of Physics and Astronomy, University of Kansas “My Life with The Hubble Space Telescope”

2010 March 26: Professor Richard Ellis, Steele Professor of Astronomy, California Institute of Technology “From Galileo to the Thirty Meter Telescope: Four Centuries of Challenge and Scientific Discovery”

2011 March 25: Dr Alan Dressler, Astronomer, Carnegie Institution of Science “The Lights of Cosmic Dawn”

2012 April 27: Dr Natalie Batalha, Professor of Physics and Astronomy, San Jose State University “Kepler’s Year Three Exoplanet Census”

2014 April 11: Dr Bahram Mobasher, Professor of Astronomy, University of California, Riverside “Let there be Light: The First Billion Years of the History of our Universe”

2015 April 24: Professor Shrinivas Kulkarni, John D. & Catherine T. McArthur Professor of Astronomy & Planetary Science at the California Institute of Technology “The Restless Universe (Palomar Transient Factory)”

2016 April 29: Professor Rudi Lindner, Professor of History and Astronomy, University of Michigan “From Berlin to Dallas: The Birth, Death, and Rebirth of Cosmology in the Twentieth Century” (.pdf of talk)  (.ppt of talk)

2017 April 28: Dr. Jess McIver, Postdoctoral Scholar at the California Institute of Technology “LIGO and the Beginning of Gravitational Wave Astronomy”

2018 April 30: Dr. Konstantin Batygin, Professor of Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology “Planet Nine from Outer Space!”

2019 April 19: Dr. Jessie Christiansen, Astrophysicist at the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute “On the Road to a Billion Killer Planets”

2020 November 12: Dr. Michael Johnson, Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics Capturing the First Image of a Black Hole”

2021 December 3: Dr. Elizabeth Turtle, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics LaboratoryDragonfly: Flights of Exploration Across an Organic Ocean World


The John D. Schopp Memorial Lectureship Fund

To help continue the John D. Shopp Memorial Lecture Series on an annual basis, contributions may be sent to:

The John D. Schopp Memorial Lectureship Fund
c/o Department of Astronomy
San Diego State University
5500 Campanile Drive
San Diego, CA 92182-1221

Please write checks to The Campanile Foundation with an on-check memo for the Schopp Lectureship Fund. All contributions are tax deductible, and will be acknowledged by mail from The Campanile Foundation.