Charles L. Bennett, a professor in the Krieger
School's Henry A.
Rowland Department of Physics and Astronomy, will be
awarded the prestigious Henry Draper Medal on May 2 at the
National Academy of Sciences' 142nd annual meeting.
The academy awards the Draper Medal every four years
to scientists and individuals who have made significant
contributions to astronomical physics. The prize was
established in 1886 by the wife of Henry Draper, a
prominent amateur scientist and early pioneer of
The NAS cited Bennett for his work with the Wilkinson
Microwave Anistropy Probe, a NASA Explorer mission that is
working to precisely determine the age, composition and
curvature of the universe.
WMAP measures the temperature of cosmic background
radiation, the oldest light in the universe and a remnant
of the Big Bang. Using the WMAP satellite, Bennett's team
has taken the universe's first-ever, detailed, full-sky
"baby picture" in microwave light from 379,000 years after
the Big Bang. The microwave light mapped by WMAP has
traveled across the universe for more than 13 billion years
and now provides a direct picture of what the universe was
"It's as if a photo of a 13-month-old baby was mailed
to a relative and got delayed in delivery. Decades later,
the relative receives the picture of the now-80-year-old
relation!" Bennett said. "Using WMAP, we see what our
universe looked like in its infancy, and using instruments
such as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and the Hubble Space
Telescope, we see how our universe evolved more recently.
Combining all that information has revealed the 13.7
billion-year age of the universe and has clearly
established that the universe is dominated by a mysterious
dark matter and an even more mysterious dark energy. That
dark energy is causing the universe to stretch at
ever-increasing rates. Determining the nature of that
energy is the preeminent problem in physics."
Bennett came to Johns Hopkins on Jan. 1 from his
position as a senior scientist for experimental cosmology
at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, where the WMAP was
built in partnership with Princeton University. He is the
third Johns Hopkins scientist to win the Draper Medal.
Henry A. Rowland, Johns Hopkins' first physics professor,
received the award in 1890, and Robert W. Wood, a professor
of experimental physics, won in 1940.
Bennett's research has been funded by NASA.