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2006 Gruber Cosmology Laureate Update

Gruber Prize Recipient John Mather wins Nobel

John Mather, who led the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) team to the 2006 Gruber Cosmology Prize, was named co-winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics for discovering the blackbody form and anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background radiation. He shares the award with George F. Smoot of the University of California at Berkeley. Mather is a Senior Astrophysicist in the observational Cosmology Laboratory at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Last August, Mather and the COBE team were awarded the Gruber Cosmology Prize at the International Astronomical Union's General Assembly in Prague for groundbreaking studies confirming that our universe was born in a hot Big Bang. As COBE's scientific leader, Mather was responsible for keeping a 1,500-person project team focused on the science.

In its description of the COBE project, the Nobel committee called Mather “the true driving force behind this gigantic collaboration” and went on to credit the precise cosmological calculations made possible by COBE with completing cosmology's transition from “a kind of philosophical speculation” to “a true science.” Through its measurements of the cosmic microwave background spectrum, COBE was able to demonstrate that nearly all radiant energy in the universe was released within one year of the Big Bang.

Mather is currently working with the James Webb telescope, which, he says, “will help us to see the very first objects formed after the Big Bang.” It is his hope that predictions about what we will find regarding the nature of those first objects and the sequence of star and galaxy formation can be verified. He considers it likely that, through direct imaging, we can attempt to see the Population-3 stars or giant supernovae that made up the first ordinary galaxies