[ASC-media] Gruber Prize for Cosmology
niall at scienceinpublic.com.au
Sat Aug 19 11:41:18 CEST 2006
COBE team honored
15 August 2006, Prague
John Mather and the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) team today received the 2006 Gruber Cosmology Prize for their ground-breaking studies confirming that our universe was born in a hot Big Bang.
The gold medal and a $250,000 cash prize was awarded at the opening ceremony of the International Astronomical Union's General Assembly in Prague on Tuesday 15 August 2006.
The instruments aboard NASA's Cosmic Background Explorer, launched in 1989, looked back over thirteen billion years to the early universe.
COBE showed us that the young universe was hot, dense, and almost uniform; that it contained weak fluctuations or lumps that grew into the galaxies and stars we see today; that these fluctuations were the consequence of a hot Big Bang; and that the universe is filled with diffuse radiation from previously unknown galaxies.
COBE was NASA's first dedicated cosmology mission, and the culmination of a fifteen-year dream for John Mather, who initiated the project with a proposal to NASA in 1974. NASA formed the science team in 1976, including members of two competing proposal teams, and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center built the COBE in Greenbelt, MD.
As COBE's scientific leader, Mather worked to keep a 1,500 strong project team focused on the science. There were many hurdles, including the Challenger Shuttle tragedy, which sent the team back to the drawing board, to redesign COBE for launch by a Delta rocket.
Now Mather still loves to look back in time. As chief scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), he is hoping that it will see back to within just 200 million years of the Big Bang.
"We're explorers," he says. "We need to understand where we and our universe came from."
The Prize will be shared by John Mather and the COBE science working group - representing the large project team.
"COBE profoundly affected our understanding of cosmic evolution," said Peter Gruber, chairman of the Peter Gruber Foundation. "I'm delighted to honor John Mather and the COBE team for their remarkable achievements."
John Mather will give the Peter Gruber Lecture at the IAU Congress in Prague on Wednesday 16 August on COBE, JWST and what the future holds for cosmologists.
Since 2000, the Cosmology Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation has recognized individuals for their ground-breaking theoretical, analytical, or conceptual discoveries. The Prize carries a gold medal and a $US250,000 cash prize.
The Cosmology prize is awarded in partnership with the International Astronomical Union.
The Foundation was founded in 1993 and established a record of charitable giving principally in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where it is located. The Foundation supports five international awards: Cosmology; Justice; Genetics, Neuroscience; and Women's Rights.
For interviews please contact:
§ Gruber media advisor: Niall Byrne, +61 417 131 977, niall at scienceinpublic.com.
§ IAU press officer: Lars Lindberg Christensen, +49 173 38 72 621, lars at eso.org
§ Goddard contact: Chris Wanjek, +1 301 286 4453, Christopher.Wanjek.1 at gsfc.nasa.gov
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