April 21, 2005
American Center for Physics
College Park, MD
NASA's Origins program is a series of space telescopes designed to study the origins of galaxies, stars, planets and life in the universe. In this talk, I will concentrate on the origin and evolution of galaxies, beginning with the Big Bang and tracing what we have learned with the Hubble Space Telescope through to the present day. I will discuss how astronomers measure distances, measure velocities, and look backwards in time. I will show that results from studies with Hubble have led to plans for its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, which is designed to find the first galaxies that formed in the distant past. I will finish with a short discussion of other missions in the Origins theme, including the Terrestrial Planet Finder.
Jonathan P. Gardner is an Astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, and the Deputy Senior Project Scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope. He began studying astronomy at Harvard University, while spending his summers as a laboratory assistant at Goddard. After graduating from Harvard he moved to Honolulu to earn a Masters and PhD from the University of Hawaii. During his 6 years in Hawaii, he spent more than 100 nights on the frigid summit of Mauna Kea Observatory, studying cosmology and the evolution of galaxies using infrared detectors that were being tested for use in the Hubble Space Telescope. In 1992, Dr. Gardner won a NATO fellowship to pursue his research at the University of Durham in the north of England. In 1996 he returned to Goddard just before astronauts installed the infrared detectors in Hubble. In addition to conducting research with data from Hubble, Dr. Gardner also helps with the plans for Hubble's successor. The James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled for launch in 2011, is designed to study galaxy formation and evolution in the infrared, reaching backwards in time to detect and identify the first light from stars and galaxies in the early history of the Universe.