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Prestigious Gruber Cosmology Prize Awarded to NASA Scientist Marcia Rieke

Marcia Rieke, a distinguished scientist known for her contributions to NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope and Hubble Space Telescope, has been awarded the Gruber Foundation’s 2024 Cosmology Prize. She will receive the award and a gold laureate pin at a ceremony on August 8, 2024, during the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union in Cape Town, South Africa.

Rieke was honoured for her pioneering work in astronomical instrumentation, which has significantly expanded our understanding of the infrared universe. Her contributions to major space missions have paved the way for new insights into star and galaxy formation. Specifically, she played a crucial role in developing and delivering state-of-the-art instruments with exceptional sensitivity to near-infrared wavelengths for both the Webb and Hubble telescopes. These achievements, along with her earlier work, have had a profound impact on cosmology, according to the Gruber Foundation’s announcement.

The Cosmology Prize celebrates leading cosmologists, astronomers, astrophysicists, or scientific philosophers for discoveries that advance our fundamental understanding of the universe. Since 2001, the prize has been co-sponsored by the International Astronomical Union and is presented annually to acknowledge and encourage further exploration in this field.

Rieke is a Regents’ Professor of Astronomy at the University of Arizona and served as the principal investigator for the Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) on the Webb telescope. In this role, she ensured that the instrument was built and delivered on time and within budget, working closely with engineers at Lockheed Martin to meet the stringent requirements.

Lee Feinberg, Webb telescope manager and optics lead at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, praised Rieke’s vision, dedication, and leadership, which were pivotal to the success of the Webb telescope.

Rieke’s research interests include infrared observations of the Milky Way’s center and other galactic nuclei. She has also served as the deputy principal investigator on the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) for the Hubble Space Telescope and was the outreach coordinator for NASA’s retired Spitzer Space Telescope.

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