National Society of Black Physicists

16-Sep-07 3:00 AM  CST


NASA scientist Dr. John C. Mather will be the dinner keynote speaker at the 2008 Joint Annual Conference of the National Society of Black Physicists and the National Society of Hispanic Physicists on Thursday, February 21. The event will be at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC.

Dr. 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. 

In 2006 Mather was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, along with George Smoot, for "...of the black body form and anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background radiation."

Work on the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) began in 1974 at NASA Goddard.  It was launched in 1989 to measure microwave and infrared light from the early universe.  COBE determined that the cosmic microwave background, which is essentially the afterglow of the Big Bang, has a temperature of 2.725 +/- 0.002 Kelvin, or about minus 455 degrees Fahrenheit. This observation matched the predictions of the hot Big Bang theory extraordinarily well and indicated that nearly all of the radiant energy of the universe was released within the first year after the Big Bang.

Also, COBE discovered slight temperature variations (about 10 parts per million) in this relatively uniform light. These variations---a little more heat here, a little less there---pointed to density differences which, through gravity over the course of billions of years, gave rise to the stars, galaxies and hierarchal structure we see today.

The COBE experiment ended in 1994 but its results transformed cosmology from a speculative science to now a extremely quantitative one. Steven Hawking has referred to the COBE results as "the most important discovery of the century, if not of all time."

Dr. Mather is presently the Chief Scientist in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters as well as Senior Scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope a large, infrared-optimized space telescope, scheduled for launch in 2013. This telescope will find the first galaxies that formed in the early Universe, connecting the Big Bang to our own Milky Way Galaxy. It will peer through dusty clouds to see stars forming planetary systems, connecting the Milky Way to our own Solar System. The James Webb Space Telescope and concurrent facilities will set the tone for astrophysics in the next decade.


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Source: National Society of Black Physicists  
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