Former Director of Hubble Telescope Project to Speak

Media contact: Noelle Lemoine, communications assistant; tele: (413) 597-4277; email: [email protected]

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., Jan. 12, 2001–Robert Williams, former director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, will present a lecture titled “Probing the Universe with the Hubble Space Telescope” on Monday, Jan. 15, at 8 p.m. in the Brooks-Rogers Recital Hall at the Bernhard Music Center on the campus of Williams College. The event, sponsored by the Department of Astronomy, the Leadership Studies Program and the Lecture Committee, is free and open to the public.

The Hubble Space Telescope, equipped with three cameras, two spectrographs and fine guidance sensors, produces high resolution images about 10 times sharper than the best ground-based telescopes. Since its launch in 1990, the Hubble has provided images of very faint, distant galaxies and has been able to reveal structure in objects where none had been seen before. The Hubble recently delivered spectacular images of intricate clouds of glowing dust and gas thrown off by a dying star similar to the sun, causing astronomers to re-think previous theories of stellar evolution. Williams believes that there is a good chance the telescope may be able to detect very faint stars that are only marginally more massive and larger than planets, and even large planets around some of the nearest stars. The detection of an extra-solar planet would be a milestone in the exploration of the universe.

As director, Williams was responsible for the team of 400 astronomers and support personnel at the Institute that conducts and coordinates the Hubble’s scientific operations. The Institute calibrates, edits, distributes and maintains data from Hubble for the world scientific community. Williams is currently Distinguished Research Scholar of the Institute and acting Associate Director for Science.