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News Release 358 of 954

August 15, 2006 08:00 AM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-2006-40

STScI Astrophysicist Shares 2006 Gruber Cosmology Prize

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STScI Astrophysicist Shares 2006 Gruber Cosmology PrizeView this image

Michael Hauser, Space Telescope Science Institute deputy director and Johns Hopkins University Physics and Astronomy Department adjunct professor, is a member of the science team that has won the Peter Gruber Foundation's 2006 Cosmology Prize. The prize's gold medal and $250,000 cash prize was presented to team leader John Mather of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) science working group, representing the large project team, on August 15 at the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union in Prague, Czech Republic.

The annual Peter Gruber Foundation's Cosmology Prize recognizes those who have contributed fundamental advances in the field of cosmology. Co-sponsored by the International Astronomical Union, the prize aims to acknowledge and encourage further exploration in a field that "shapes the way we perceive and comprehend our universe," according to the foundation's Web site.

Hauser commented, "I was very excited to learn that John Mather and the COBE team had been selected to receive the 2006 Cosmology Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation. John Mather's initiative in proposing the COBE mission and his scientific and technical expertise made him an ideal scientific leader for the mission. For me, the COBE mission was a labor of love, from the day it was conceived in 1974 until completion of its major scientific papers some 25 years later. I was particularly gratified that this award recognizes the large team of dedicated scientists, engineers and others who contributed to the scientific success of the COBE mission."

The COBE satellite was launched on November 18, 1989 to measure the early universe's diffuse infrared and microwave radiation, and the COBE science team was honored by the foundation for the satellite's multiple accomplishments. Hauser was instrumental in the first definitive detection of the cosmic infrared background - the background infrared glow across the sky produced by dust warmed by all the stars and galaxies that have existed since the beginning of time.

Johns Hopkins University astrophysicist Charles L. Bennett is another leading member of the COBE team sharing the Gruber Cosmology Prize. He played a key role in the first-ever detection of the fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background radiation — tiny temperature fluctuations across the sky — the afterglow from the Big Bang.

Bennett commented, "The long, hard hours building, testing, launching, flying, analyzing data and publishing scientific results from COBE were very satisfying. One might normally have considered it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity if it were not for the fact that I was blessed with the opportunity for a repeat performance with the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe."

Mather will receive half the Prize. The balance will be shared by Hauser, Bennett and the sixteen other members of the COBE Science Working Group: Nancy W. Boggess; Edward S. Cheng; Eli Dwek; Samuel Gulkis; Michael Al Janssen; Thomas Kelsall; Philip M. Lubin; Stephan S. Meyer; S. Harvey Moseley; Thomas L. Murdock; Richard A. Shafer; Robert F. Silverberg; George F. Smoot; Rainer Weiss; the estate of David T. Wilkinson (deceased); and Edward L. Wright.

The Peter Gruber 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.

CONTACT

Cheryl Gundy/Ray Villard
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.
(Phone: 410-338-4707/410-338-4514; E-mail: gundy@stsci.edu/villard@stsci.edu)

Lisa DeNike
Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md.
(Phone: 443-287-9960; E-mail: lde@jhu.edu)