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A Lecture on the Origins of the Universe


WASHINGTON - Nobel Prize-winning NASA scientist John C. Mather will discuss his discoveries on the origins of the universe in a free public lecture at the Maryland Science Center’s Imax Theater at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor on Sept. 10 at 7:30 p.m. This event kicks off a yearlong series of public lectures and colloquia commemorating the 50th anniversary of the International Geophysical Year (IGY) of 1957-58, which ushered in the space age with the launch of the first artificial Earth-orbiting satellites, the Soviet Sputnik and United States’ Explorer.

Mather, a senior astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, shared the 2006 Nobel Prize in physics for work on understanding the big bang, the explosion that created the universe. The Nobel committee cited Mather for his analysis of data from and leadership of NASA’s Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE), launched in 1989. They also attributed COBE’s success to “the prodigious teamwork involving more than 1,000 researchers, engineers, and other participants” under Mather’s direction. George F. Smoot, a professor at the University of California, who also worked on COBE, was co-recipient of the prize.

Mather’s lecture, titled From the Big Bang to the Nobel Prize and on to James Webb Space Telescope, will provide highlights from his work in space science and a look at what’s ahead. The public is also invited to a panel discussion at the Maryland Science Center from 2:30 p.m. to 5:15 p.m., where local space scientists will discuss the future of space science.


Christopher Justice, professor and research director, geography department, University of Maryland, College Park

Laurie Leshin, director of sciences and exploration, NASA/Goddard, Greenbelt, Md.

Matt Mountain, director, STScI, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore

Robert Strain, head, space department, Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md.

Sponsored by the Space Studies Board (SSB) of the National Research Council in Washington, D.C., the seminar series Forging the Future of Space Science – The Next 50 years celebrates the achievements of space science, examines new discoveries in the field, and is designed to encourage public interest in the scientific and societal significance of space studies.

“The site, the topic, and the speaker are a fitting combination for inaugurating a nationwide series of events dedicated to the historic launching of science into space and its continually unfolding promise,” said SSB chair Lennard A. Fisk.

The local co-host for September’s inaugural event will be Maryland’s Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI). STScI operates the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope, and will operate the next-generation telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope. “It is an honor to host this important event and to offer the public a chance to see and hear a space scientist who has brought world recognition to our state,” said Matt Mountain, director of STScI, headquartered at Johns Hopkins University.

After its Baltimore debut, the series will continue in Durham, N.H., where Ralph Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences, will speak on Oct. 19 about global climate change. To register for either event or for more information about the series, locations, and speakers, visit


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