NASA has chosen Dr. Jane Rigby as the new senior project scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope mission. Rigby is an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, in Greenbelt, Maryland, and has worked on the mission for many years.
Rigby was one of the three commissioning scientists for Webb. She also led the characterization of Webb’s science performance. She is an active researcher studying how galaxies form stars, and leads one of Webb’s Early Release Science programs. She steps in after John Mather, who held the position for almost 28 years since 1995. Mather is moving on to senior project scientist emeritus for Webb at NASA.
“Dr. Rigby brings a strong passion for the Webb telescope to this job and is committed to ensuring that our science community can undertake groundbreaking science with this unique observatory,” said Mark Clampin, director of the Astrophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
“This mission is seeing the universe in a whole new way. I’m so excited to lead this amazing team, as we maximize the science return from the most powerful telescope humanity has ever built,” Rigby said.
The Webb senior project scientist provides the scientific leadership necessary for the success of the mission by ensuring that it meets its science requirements.
About Dr. Jane Rigby
Rigby earned degrees in both physics and astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State University and her Ph.D. in astronomy from University of Arizona. Rigby develops new techniques to study galaxy evolution, star-forming galaxies, and active galactic nuclei.
Rigby and her team at NASA, with international collaborators, have led many successful research campaigns, collecting data from the Keck and Magellan Observatories and the Hubble Space Telescope. She has published more than 140 peer-reviewed publications. She also has given numerous professional and public presentations on her research and on the James Webb Space Telescope. Rigby has been recognized for her research, mentorship, and diversity-related work with awards such as NASA’s Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal and served on a panel for the 2020 Decadal Survey of Astronomy and Astrophysics for the National Academies. Rigby also serves as a trustee of the American Astronomical Society (AAS).
In 2022, she was awarded the 2022 LGBTQ+ Scientist of the Year by Out to Innovate. This year, she was awarded the Explorers Club Citation of Merit jointly with John Mather, and the Fred Kavli Prize Plenary Lecturer, from the AAS.
Dr. John Mather, the First Webb Senior Project Scientist
Dr. John Mather played a key role in the Webb project from the earliest days. In his work leading the Webb telescope science team beginning in 1995, Mather represented scientific interests to project management and helped see each step forward, no matter how small. His work included setting up international science contests to find the best talent to invent the right instruments and technologies for the telescope, and to bring the same inventions to life. Mather is known for speaking passionately about the telescope’s promise to observe events and objects at sufficient distances to reveal the universe when it was less than a billion years old.
Mather said of his new emeritus status, “I’ll be enjoying every minute of the team’s amazing results and cheering for our successes. I’ll be traveling and telling the world what we are doing. And I’ll be working on what’s next for NASA – I’m not retiring a bit.”
About the Webb Telescope
The James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s largest, most powerful, and most complex space science telescope ever built. Webb will solve mysteries in our solar system, look beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probe the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international program led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).
For more information about Rigby, visit: https://asd.gsfc.nasa.gov/Jane.Rigby
For information about Webb, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/webb
By Rob Gutro
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD