John C. Mather

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Election Year: 1997
Primary Section: 13, Physics
Secondary Section: 12, Astronomy
Membership Type: Member

Research Interests

As an astrophysicist, I have studied the origin of the Universe through measurement of the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR) left from the Big Bang. I was the leader of the team that proposed the Cosmic Background Explorer satellite to NASA in 1974 and was the Project Scientist for the mission, launched in 1989. The satellite was built at Goddard Space Flight Center and carried three instruments. One, for which I was the Principal Investigator, measured the spectrum of the CMBR and compared it with the theoretical prediction; the agreement is exact. One measured the anisotropy (nonuniformity) of the radiation, finding the predicted fluctuations thought to be remnants of quantum fluctuations in the Big Bang. The third measured the near infrared cosmic background radiation. More recently I have been working with engineers and scientists to plan the Next Generation Space Telescope. It would be far larger than the Hubble and would be cooled to improve sensitivity to infrared radiation from the most distant galaxies and to stars and planets just being formed.

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