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NASA Nobel Prize Recipient to Focus on Telescope Science Activities


WASHINGTON -- NASA scientist and 2006 Nobel Prize recipient John Mather will devote more of his time at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., to provide additional focus and support as senior project scientist and chair of the Science Working Group for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Mather has been dividing his time in that role and serving as lead scientist in the Office of the Chief Scientist within the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington since April 2007.

“My priority now for JWST is entirely driven by the needs of the project. As the telescope progresses, we have numerous challenges ahead of us on the technical side that have to be addressed,” Mather said. “However, despite the workload, I still plan to continue to serve in the Office of the Chief Scientist a few days a week until further notice. My decision is entirely unrelated to recent personnel changes at NASA Headquarters.”

The Webb Telescope, the next step after the Hubble Space Telescope, is a large, infrared-optimized space telescope, scheduled for launch in 2013. It will find the first galaxies that formed in the early universe and peer through dusty clouds to see stars forming planetary systems. The telescope’s instruments will be designed to work primarily in the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum, with some capability in the visible range. The telescope will have a large mirror, 21.3 feet in diameter and a sunshield the size of a tennis court. It will reside in an orbit about 1 million miles from Earth.

Mather joined Goddard to head the Cosmic Background Explorer Mission as project scientist. He has been a Goddard Fellow since 1994.

A recipient of numerous awards, Mather has a bachelor’s degree in physics from Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, Pa., and a doctorate in physics from the University of California, Berkeley. In October 2006, Mather and George Smoot of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, Calif., received the Nobel Prize for Physics for their collaborative work in understanding the Big Bang.


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