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Bock Receives Award for Astronomical Instrumentation

Jamie Bock, professor of physics and Jet Propulsion Laboratory senior research scientist, has received the Joseph Weber Award for Astronomical Instrumentation from the American Astronomical Society (AAS). The award citation notes his "development of low-noise 'spider-web' bolometers"—devices for measuring radiation—that have enabled fundamental measurements of the cosmic microwave background. The award is given annually for the design, invention, or significant improvement of instrumentation leading to advances in astronomy.

The spider-web bolometers, developed to detect millimeter-wave and far-infrared radiation, enabled a generation of ground-based and balloon-borne experiments for mapping variations in the cosmic microwave background, or CMB, which is thermal radiation from the early universe. The most notable of the telescopes employing these bolometers,, the BOOMERanG balloon experiment, made measurements of the CMB that ultimately determined that the overall geometry of the universe is very nearly flat. Detector arrays later flew on the Planck spacecraft and provided what is currently the ultimate measurement of the CMB over the full sky, and flew as well on the Herschel Space Observatory, a 3.5-meter space-based telescope for far-infrared astronomy. Modern descendants of the spider-web bolometers are actively engaged in measuring CMB polarization from Earth's South Pole.

After receiving his PhD in physics from UC Berkeley in 1994, Bock joined JPL as a research scientist and Caltech as a visiting associate. He was named a senior research scientist and full professor in 2012.

Written by Lorinda Dajose