Approximately 65 scientists from across the United States will convene in Rochester today and tomorrow, April 6 and 7, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel to discuss NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the telescope that will take over for the well-known Hubble Space Telescope in 2011. The University of Rochester's strength in optics is evidenced in that nearly a quarter of the members of the national group are alumni or faculty of the University.
The scientists are members of the James Webb Space Telescope product integrity team that is advising NASA on the Webb Telescope as it develops over the next several years. The committee includes approximately 15 scientists who have connections to Rochester, including Lee Feinberg, JWST Telescope Manager for NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD. Feinberg is a University of Rochester graduate who received his bachelor of science degree in 1987.
Also involved is Duncan Moore, Rudolf and Hilda Kingslake Professor of Optical Engineering at the University of Rochester, who is co-chairman of the product integrity team. This is the first time the team is meeting in Rochester. Previous meetings were held in Tucson, Arizona, and Boulder, Colorado.
"We are so proud to bring this pre-eminent group of scientists to the Rochester region as they focus on this incredibly significant project—significant not only to science, but to the greater understanding of our universe," Moore said. "The Webb Telescope is, quite literally, the next-generation telescope. It will replace the Hubble Telescope and will go where no telescope—not even the Hubble—has gone before."
When it's launched in 2011, the James Webb Space Telescope will be three times larger than the Hubble Telescope. The Webb Telescope will be able to look deeper into the universe than Hubble because of the increased light-collecting power of its larger mirror and the extraordinary sensitivity of its instruments to infrared light. Webb's primary mirror will be at least 20 feet in diameter, providing much more light gathering capability than Hubble's eight-foot primary mirror. James E. Webb ran the newly formed NASA during much of the Apollo program from February 1961 to October 1968, and is often considered to have done more for science than perhaps any other government official.
The telescope's infrared capabilities are required to help astronomers understand how galaxies first emerged out of the darkness that followed the rapid expansion and cooling of the universe just a few hundred million years after the big bang. The light from the youngest galaxies is seen in the infrared due to the universe's expansion. The Webb Telescope also will probe the formation of planets in disks around young stars, and study supermassive black holes in other galaxies.
In addition to the scientists working on the Webb Telescope, several contractors have been named by NASA to work on the telescope's optical systems. ITT Industries' Space Systems Division (SSD), the former Remote Sensing Systems operation of Eastman Kodak Company, will integrate and test the optical telescope on board the JWST. More than 1,900 employees work for ITT Industries SSD in Rochester.
"Our heritage encompasses some 50 years of cooperation with NASA," said Gary Matthews, manager of Earth and Space Science, ITT Industries' SSD, "including lunar orbiters, the Apollo program, the Hubble Space Telescope, and the Chandra X-ray observatory. We're proud to be part of the JWST team and this exciting space program."
"This meeting of the minds that is occurring in Rochester today and tomorrow is added proof that when it comes to optics, our region is a clear leader in the field," said Michael A. Finney, president and CEO of Greater Rochester Enterprise. "From the Apollo Project to the Hubble, from the Mars rovers to the Webb telescope, our optics industry's work with NASA and its role in aerospace innovation is unmatched."
For more information about the James Webb Space Telescope, please visit www.jwst.nasa.gov.