North Carolina Astronomers’ Meeting (NCAM)
Saturday, 23 September 2017
2017 Speaker – Saturday Morning: John Mather, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
From the Big Bang to the End of the Universe, and How We’ll Learn More with the James Webb Space Telescope
John Mather is a Senior Astrophysicist in the Observational Cosmology Laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, and Senior Project Scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope. His research centers on infrared astronomy and cosmology. He was Principal Investigator for the Far Infrared Absolute Spectrophotometer (FIRAS) on the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE), which was used to show that the cosmic microwave background radiation has a blackbody spectrum within 50 parts per million (ppm), confirming the Big Bang theory to extraordinary accuracy. For this work he shared the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics.
Dr. Mather will also give a public lecture at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, 22 Sep 2017, in the auditorium of the Koury Hospitality Careers Building at GTCC.
NCAM is an annual technical meeting that seeks to bring members of the NC professional astronomy community together to network and share research. The meeting usually draws 50+ attendees from institutions around North Carolina and surrounding states. For the past two decades, NCAM has been held annually in late September or early October, and includes a plenary presentation from an invited researcher, short oral sessions scheduled throughout the day, and space for research posters. We especially encourage presentations of student research. The meeting also usually includes two special sessions: the annual business meeting of the NC Section of the International Dark-sky Association, and a Center for Astronomy Education Regional Teaching Exchange.
Plenary Lecture Abstract
From the Big Bang to the End of the Universe, and How We’ll Learn More with the James Webb Space Telescope.
The James Webb Space Telescope, planned for launch in October 2018, will be the most powerful space telescope ever built. It will open new territories of astronomy, with observations ranging from the first stars, galaxies, and black holes, to the growth of galaxies, to the formation of stars and planetary systems, to the evolution of planetary systems and the conditions for life here on Earth, and perhaps elsewhere. I will show how we have learned about the history of the universe, how the Big Bang is a completely misleading name for the infinite expanding universe, and what new telescopes are being built now. I will illustrate with simulations of the formation of galaxies from the primordial material, and the possible evolution of the solar system through planetary orbit migration. The JWST telescope mirror has been assembled and the instrument module has been completely tested. After more tests at Goddard, the telescope/instrument combination will travel to Houston for cryo-vacuum tests in Chamber A in 2017. I will show the design of the observatory and discuss the opportunities for future observers to prepare to use it.