2023 Brinson Lecture: Dr. Jane Rigby, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, “The Era of the Webb Telescope”

View recorded lecture on UChicago/PSD YouTube Channel
Date: May 11, 2023, 6:00 pm
Location: Venue SIX10 at the Spertus Museum
610 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago
Free Public Lecture

2023 Brinson Lecturer Dr. Jane Rigby, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

The James Webb Space Telescope is, by orders of magnitude, the most powerful telescope ever built. Webb is many things at once: a transformative scientific instrument, a demanding feat of engineering, an international collaboration, and, it has become a hopeful symbol of what humanity can accomplish. In her lecture, Dr. Rigby will describe how 20,000 of the world's best engineers designed and built this audacious deployable telescope, then tested it on the ground to be sure it would unfurl correctly a million miles out in space. She will share the story of the grueling six-month commissioning period, when a team of 600 scientists deployed the sunshield and telescope, focused the mirrors, brought the science instruments online, and came to realize that not only does JWST work, it overperforms across the board. She will discuss discoveries from Webb that help us understand our place in the Universe -- how the first galaxies formed after the Big Bang, matured over cosmic time, and formed stars like our sun and planets like our Earth -- and celebrate the people who collectively created this revolutionary observatory, now in its first of many years of scientific discovery.

Dr. Jane Rigby is a NASA Astrophysicist who serves as the Operations Project Scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope and is one of the leaders of the team that commissioned the telescope. Dr. Rigby's research focuses on how galaxies evolve over cosmic time using the techniques of diagnostic spectroscopy and gravitational lensing. She has published more than 130 peer-reviewed scientific papers, and is the Principal Investigator of the James Webb Space Telescope Early Release Science program and active user of the Webb, Hubble, Spitzer, and Chandra Observatories in space and the Keck and Magellan Observatories on Earth. Before coming to NASA, Dr. Rigby was a Spitzer Fellow and Carnegie Fellow at the Carnegie Observatories. She holds PhD and MS degrees in Astronomy from the University of Arizona, and BS degrees in Physics and Astronomy from Penn State.

Dr. Rigby was named to Nature's list of ten individuals who shaped science in 2022, and to the BBC's list of 100 inspiring and influential women for 2022. She received the 2018 John C. Lindsay Memorial Award for Space Science.