Prestige Lecture, March 2015


The Centre welcomed Prof Gillian Wright MBE, FRSE, Director of the UK Astronomy Technology Centre, Edinburgh for this year’s Prestige Lecture James Webb Space Telescope held at Cranfield University on 31 March 2015.

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is NASA’s flagship mission for astrophysics in the coming decade, and is designed to be the scientific successor to Hubble. It will be the largest and most technically ambitious telescope ever flown, requiring a deployable mirror and massive sunshield to cool the telescope to just 40K. Due for launch in 2018, JWST will enable scientists to study the evolution of galaxies at the furthest reaches of the universe and determine chemical compositions of planets in other solar systems.

The talk described the science that JWST will do together with the technologies and the engineering on both small and large scales that are fundamental to the mission success. It also described the European participation in the mission development and in particular the Mid-Infrared Instrument, MIRI, which has been led from the UK. An overview of the current status of the mission development will be presented, giving a perspective and flavour of the momentous JWST programme.

Prof Gillian Wright is Director of the UK-ATC and a visiting professor of the Institute for Astronomy, University of Edinburgh.

She obtained her PhD in physics from Imperial College in 1986. She was a staff scientist at UKIRT and then Head of Instrumentation from 1995 until 1997, when she returned to the UK to join the newly formed UK-ATC. As the European Principal Investigator for the James Webb Space Telescope Mid-IR Instrument (MIRI) she provides UK leadership for an essential part of this NASA flagship mission.

She has 30 years’ experience of ground and space-based instrumentation for astronomy having provided scientific, technical and management leadership for projects ranging from observatory management software, through critical mechanism sub-systems, to entire flight instruments.

Gillian was awarded an MBE for Services to Science in 2006, and is a member of a number of National and International Advisory Panels for astronomy and astronomical instrumentation.


Questions from the audience
Prof Paul Shore talks about the manufacture of mirror slicers manufactured by the Precision Engineering Institute at Cranfield University for the MIRI
Prof Paul Shore, Centre Director, presents Prof Gillian Wright with her personalised Watch it Made wrist watch