Astrophysicist Charles Bennett Receives 2013 Jansky Lectureship Award

Dr. Charles L. Bennett

Associated Universities, Inc., and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) have awarded the 2013 Karl G. Jansky Lectureship to Charles Bennett, Ph.D., the Alumni Centennial Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md. Bennett was honored for his leadership in the establishment of precision cosmology through studies of the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation.

“I am delighted to receive this honor,” Bennett said. “To be recognized in this manner by my contemporaries in this field, people I respect and admire, is deeply humbling. It is a great pleasure to have the opportunity to address my colleagues at NRAO and the public in a series of lectures on what the Universe continues to reveal to us.”

Bennett will present his lecture, titled “A Tour of the Universe,” in Charlottesville, Va., on October 10 at 7 p.m. in Ern Commons at the University of Virginia; in Green Bank., W.Va., on October 11 at 7 p.m. in the NRAO’s Jansky Auditorium; and in Socorro, N.M., on January 17, 2014, the time and location to be determined.

First awarded in 1966, the Karl G. Jansky Lectureship was established by the trustees of Associated Universities, Inc., to recognize outstanding contributions to the advancement of radio astronomy. It is named in honor of Karl Jansky, who, in 1932, discovered radio waves emanating from the central region of the Milky Way Galaxy, which started the science of radio astronomy. Recipients of the Jansky Lectureship include five Nobel laureates: Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, Arno Penzias, Robert Wilson, William Fowler, and Joseph Taylor. Other distinguished recipients include Jocelyn Bell Burnell, discoverer of the first pulsar, and Vera Rubin, discoverer of dark matter in galaxies.

Bennett’s research is in the area of experimental cosmology, building instruments and telescopes for the observational study of the origin and evolution of the Universe.

For the last two decades, Bennett has led the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, or WMAP, mission. WMAP was launched in June 2001 and helped to quantify the age, content, history, and other key properties of the Universe with unprecedented accuracy and precision. This was recognized by Science magazine as the 2003 “Breakthrough of the Year.” The WMAP satellite ended its nine years of scientific observations in August 2010.

Bennett is currently building the Cosmology Large Angular Scale Surveyor, or CLASS, an instrument designed to test the inflation theory of cosmology, which helps to explain the nature of the first trillionth of a trillionth of a second of the Universe. The CLASS instrumentation will be located near the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope in Chile.

“While we have learned an enormous amount about our Universe in just the last few years, pressing questions remain,” Bennett said. “What is dark matter? What is dark energy? What happened in the very first moments of our Universe? The scientific community seeks to answer these questions, and we are hard at work on multiple projects aimed at these most fundamental issues in physics and astronomy.”

Bennett received his bachelor’s degree in physics and astronomy from the University of Maryland in College Park in 1978 and his Ph.D. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1984. He joined the scientific staff of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in 1984, where he later became the Infrared Astrophysics Branch Head and then a Senior Scientist for Experimental Cosmology and a Goddard Senior Fellow. Bennett became a professor at Johns Hopkins University in January 2005.

Bennett has received a number of awards and honors throughout his career, including the 2012 Gruber Cosmology Prize, the 2010 Shaw Prize in Astronomy, the 2009 Comstock Prize in Physics, the 2006 Harvey Prize, and the 2005 Draper Medal. He has twice received the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal and also received the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal for WMAP. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Associated Universities, Inc., unites the resources of universities, research organizations and the Federal Government in the planning, construction, and operation of forefront scientific facilities that promote discovery and education while expanding our knowledge of the physical world.

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