Sarah KeeganHeadquarters, Washington, DC May 2, 1997(Phone: 202/358-1600)James SahliGoddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD(Phone: 301/286-0697)RELEASE: 97-88GODDARD SCIENTIST SELECTED FOR NATIONAL ACADEMY OFSCIENCESDr. John C. Mather, a senior astrophysicist at NASA's GoddardSpace Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, has been elected to theNational Academy of Sciences (NAS) for his distinguished andcontinuing achievements in original research.Mather joins 74 new NAS members and associates who wereelected this week. Election to membership in the Academy isconsidered one of the highest honors that can be accorded a U.S.scientist or engineer.Mather was selected for his work as project scientist forNASA's Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) spacecraft. Dr. Mathercurrently is study scientist for NASA's Next Generation SpaceTelescope and is a senior fellow in Goddard's Space ScienceDirectorate.Mather led the first proposal for the COBE satellite in 1974and became its project scientist and one of the three principalinvestigators. COBE was launched in 1989 and measured and mappedthe microwave and infrared sky with unprecedented precision.In 1992, the COBE team announced it had mapped the primordialhot and cold spots in the cosmic microwave background radiation.These spots are related to the gravitational field in the earlyuniverse, only instants after the Big Bang, and are the seeds forthe giant clusters of galaxies that stretch hundreds of millionsof light years across the universe. The team also showed that theBig Bang radiation has a spectrum agreeing exactly with thetheoretical prediction, confirming the Big Bang theory and showingthat the Big Bang was complete in instants, with only a tinyfraction of the energy released later.