Learn how NASA's James Webb Space Telescope was built and what the implications of its data are for discoveries about our universe.

John Mather, College Park Professor of Physics and NASA Senior Scientist

Tuesday, October 17, 2023 at 4:00 p.m. (Light refreshments at 3:30 p.m.)

1101 A. James Clark Hall, University of Maryland


The James Webb Space Telescope was launched on December 25, 2021, with commissioning complete in early July 2022. With its 6.5-meter golden eye, cameras and spectrometers, the Webb Telescope is already producing magnificent images of galaxies, active galactic nuclei, star-forming regions, and planets.

Scientists are beginning to observe the growth of galaxies, the formation of stars and planetary systems, individual exoplanets through coronagraphy and transit spectroscopy, and all objects in the Solar System from Mars and beyond. In this year's Paint Branch Lecture, John Mather will explain how he and his team built the Webb Telescope and the discoveries they hope to make with its data. The Webb Telescope is a joint project of NASA with the European and Canadian space agencies.


Dr. John C. Mather is a Senior Astrophysicist in the Observational Cosmology Laboratory at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. His research centers on infrared astronomy and cosmology. 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 also the Principal Investigator for the Far IR Absolute Spectrophotometer (FIRAS) on COBE. He showed that the cosmic microwave background radiation has a blackbody spectrum within 50 ppm. As Senior Project Scientist (95-present) for the James Webb Space Telescope, he leads the science team, and represents scientific interests within the project management. He has served on advisory and working groups for the National Academy of Sciences, NASA, and the NSF (for the ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, and for the CARA, the Center for Astrophysical Research in the Antarctic). He has received many awards including the Nobel Prize in Physics, 2006, for his precise measurements of the cosmic microwave background radiation using the COBE satellite.



Paint Branch is a 14-mile stream that brings water from small streams and tributaries throughout the region, flowing south through our campus on its way to the Anacostia River. Many of us pass it by car, bicycle, or on foot each day on our way to and from work. Like the Paint Branch, we anticipate that this new lectureship will serve as a confluence that draws together the many talented and active researchers, faculty, and students in applied physics in our communiy and will remind us of our common goals and principles.

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