Meeting Information

Future Science, Brilliant Engineering, for the James Webb Space Telescope

December 20, 2017
American Center for Physics
College Park, MD

Date: December 20, 2017

Speaker: John C. Mather, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Topic: Future Science, Brilliant Engineering, for the James Webb Space Telescope

Time and Location: 1:00 p.m., with Q&A to follow in a 1st floor conference room at the American Center for Physics (, 1 Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD — off River Rd., between Kenilworth Ave. and Paint Branch Parkway.

Abstract: NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), planned for launch in October 2018, utilizes high performance imaging optics to see beyond what the great Hubble Space Telescope can see, farther away and farther back in time. It will be the workhorse telescope for a generation of space astronomers, opening the infrared (0.6-28 µm) window with a 6.6 m aperture cold telescope. To test it end-to-end, we have developed remarkable laser interferometer technologies, with computer-generated holograms to test the primary mirror, and it must all be done cold and in a vacuum tank. I will outline the mission design, the scientific objectives, and the current status.

Biography: Dr. John C. Mather is a Senior Astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, where he specializes in infrared astronomy and cosmology. He received his Bachelor’s degree in physics at Swarthmore College and his PhD in physics at the University of California at Berkeley.

As an NRC postdoctoral fellow at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (New York City), he led the proposal efforts for the Cosmic Background Explorer (74-76), and came to GSFC to be the Study Scientist (76-88), Project Scientist (88-98), and the Principal Investigator for the Far IR Absolute Spectrophotometer (FIRAS) on COBE. He and his team showed that the cosmic microwave background radiation has a blackbody spectrum within 50 parts per million, confirming the Big Bang theory to extraordinary accuracy. The COBE team also discovered the cosmic anisotropy (hot and cold spots in the background radiation), now believed to be the primordial seeds that led to the structure of the universe today. It was these findings that led to Dr. Mather receiving the Nobel Prize in 2006.

Dr. Mather now serves as Senior Project Scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to the great Hubble Space Telescope.

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