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Nobel Prize-winning NASA scientist John Mather to come to Westminster

Nobel Prize-winning NASA scientist John Mather to come to Westminster
John Mather, a NASA scientist who received the Nobel prize for physics with fellow scientist George Smoot, speaks at a press conference at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C. Mather will be guest at the Westminster Astronomical Society's meeting in Westminster on Oct. 10. (JAY MALIN / BLOOMBERG NEWS)

The Westminster Astronomical Society will be hosting a special guest at its Oct. 10 club meeting — John Mather, a senior astrophysicist at the Observational Cosmology Laboratory at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and senior project scientist for NASA’s James Webb space telescope.

And then there’s a little thing called the Nobel Prize: Mather shared the 2006 Nobel Prize in physics with University of California Berkeley’s George Smoot for their work on the cosmic microwave background radiation, the after glow of the big bang.

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“It’s a big deal. If you love astronomy and physics, come out and listen to this guy,” said Wayne “Skip” Bird, outreach coordinator for the club. “You don’t get a chance to meet Nobel Prize winning people very often.”

The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 10 at Bear Branch Nature Center, 300 John Owings Road, Westminster, and is free and open to the public.

Bird said the doors will stay open until “the room gets full.”

“We don’t know how many people are going to show up,” he said. “I sent invites out to four or five of the surrounding astronomy clubs, everything within n hour-and-a-half from here.”

As long as there are clear skies, Bird said, the club will also open its observatory at Bear Branch, giving participants an opportunity to gaze upward through at 14-inch telescope — It’s normally open on the second Saturday of the month, when Bear Branch hosts planetarium shows.

The public is also invited to other upcoming events, Bird said, which can be seen on the club calendar online at www.westminsterastro.org/events, including a November meeting for people interested in buying a telescope over the holidays.

“It’s like buying a car without without driving it,” he said. “So we have a variety of telescopes set up so they can try them out.”

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