Space Astronomy After the Great Observatories

Eric P. Smith
James Webb Space Telescope Program Scientist, NASA


2264th Meeting Abstract
Friday, January 22, 2010 at 8:15 PM

Eric P. Smith

Abstract:

For the last decade the NASA Great Observatories, The Hubble Space Telescope, Compton Gamma-ray Observatory, Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Spizter Space Telescope have driven many astronomy advances. These instruments conceived initially in the 1970s, but formalized as a program in the 1980s, have expanded our understanding of the cosmos. New celestial phenomena like the accelerating universe, gamma ray bursts, and extrasolar planets investigated by these missions have deepened our astronomical understanding and sense of mystery simultaneously. Surely, to quote from nearly every scientific paper, "more data will be required". But where and how will space astronomy and astrophysics advance after these facilities are only textbook lessons? Does this grand assembly of telescopes represent NASA's "Astronomy Apollo Program", mythic in its accomplishments, possibly never to be duplicated?

This lecture will cover some of the science questions that promise to drive astronomy in the coming years and perhaps decades. With these as starting points the lecture will go into NASA's plans for new observatories both near and longer term. The lecture will also discuss subsequent generations of telescopes to further our understanding of the universe.

About the Author:

Eric P. Smith is the James Webb Space Telescope and Hubble Space Telescope Program Scientist at NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. He's the senior NASA scientist responsible for the Webb science content and is also responsible for monitoring and managing the science program for both the Webb Telescope and Hubble. He defines and safeguards the "Level 1" science requirements for Webb. These delineate the essential capabilities the observatory must possess such as primary mirror size, instrument complement, and mission lifetime. He works with the Webb Project Science Team and the Science Working Group during the observatory’s development to see that the developing hardware measures up against the science requirements.

Before coming to NASA Headquarters he worked at the Goddard Space Flight Center on the science team for the Space Shuttle borne Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope, and on the data archiving and distribution system for Hubble He holds a B.A. in Physics and Astronomy from the University of Virginia and a M.S. and Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of Maryland, College Park.


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