Johns Hopkins University astrophysicist
Bennett 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 is being presented to John Mather of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and the 18-member Cosmic Background Explorer team on Aug. 15 at the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union in Prague, Czech Republic.
The annual Peter Gruber Foundation Cosmology Prize recognizes fundamental advances in research on the origin, development and structure of the universe. 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.
The Cosmic Background Explorer satellite, or COBE, was launched in 1989 to measure the early universe's now-diffuse infrared and microwave radiation. Its science team was honored by the foundation for multiple accomplishments, including the first-ever discovery of tiny cosmic temperature variations across the sky, which reveal how matter and energy were distributed when the universe was very young, more than 13 billion years ago. Bennett was one of the leaders of this investigation. The prize also marks COBE's discovery that the infant universe's afterglow radiation has an average temperature of 2.725 Kelvin (degrees above absolute zero), which closely matched predictions of the hot Big Bang theory. The Big Bang theory was worked out in detail in 1948 by Ralph Alpher of the Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory.
"The professional achievements that have brought me the most satisfaction are my work with COBE and with the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe," said Bennett, a professor in the Henry A. Rowland Department of Physics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins and primary investigator for WMAP. "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 WMAP."
Michael Hauser, the deputy director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore and an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins, is another leading member of the COBE team sharing the Gruber Cosmology Prize. Hauser led the COBE discovery of the cosmic infrared background radiation, the cumulative light from all of the stars and galaxies in the universe.
"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," Hauser said. "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."
Color photos of Bennett are available. Contact Lisa De Nike at LDE@jhu.edu or call 443-287-9960.
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