Fifteen Years of Astounding

Images from Hubble


April 12, 2006


Dr. H. John Wood

Hubble Space Telescope Project
Optics Lead Engineer
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center




Orbiting high above the turbulence of the earth’s atmosphere, the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is providing breathtaking views of astronomical objects never before seen in such detail.  The steady images allow this medium-size telescope to reach the faintest galaxies ever seen by mankind.  Some of these galaxies are seen as early as 2 billion years after the Big Bang in a 13.7 billion year old universe.  HST has allowed dramatic advances in all fields of Astronomy and Astrophysics since its launch in April 1990.  Servicing by the Space Shuttle has allowed correction of the optics and installation of new state-of-the-art instruments over the 15 years the telescope has been in orbit.

Sixty years ago Joe Woods in Baltimore began observing with his new 12-inch Cassegrain telescope. The brass clock drive kept the telescope tracking at the sidereal rate.  The rotating dome was a curiosity for the mail man because the slit was in a different position every morning. Joe invited a neighbor, me, 7-year-old Johnny Wood, to come look at the moon, Mars and nebulae.  Need I say that I was enthralled by the beauty of the objects we could see? So enthralled was I that I made a life commitment to study the stars.

 Now, after 15 years of successful operations in space, the HST has provided me with another epiphany: the essence or meaning of objects in the sky.   A selection of some of the most beautiful images will demonstrate the power and utility of the HST.


Brief Biography:


Dr. H. John Wood is an astronomer and serves as an optical engineer for the Optics Branch at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Since June 1990, he has been Optics Lead Engineer on the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Project. He led the team that successfully determined the optical prescription of HST while on orbit. He then led NASA's effort to develop and test the corrective optics for HST. In addition to his work on Hubble, he currently serves as Science Liaison in the Instrument Synthesis & Analysis Laboratory for new Earth Science and Space Science instrument engineering design at Goddard.

A graduate of Swarthmore College, Dr. Wood earned the M.A. and Ph.D. in Astronomy from Indiana University. He has been at Goddard Space Flight Center for over 20 years. In addition to the Hubble Project, he has been Lead Optical Engineer on other Goddard projects: the Mars Observer Laser Altimeter and the Diffuse Infrared Background Experiment aboard the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE). Earlier he served as assistant to the director at Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory (Chile) for two years. He held a Fulbright Research Fellowship for two years at the University Observatory in Vienna, Austria. He also served five years as a staff astronomer at the European Southern Observatory in Chile. His career began with six years on the astronomy faculty of the University of Virginia at Charlottesville.

Winner of the 1992 NASA exceptional service medal and the 1994 NASA exceptional achievement medal for his work on COBE and HST, he is the author of over 50 research papers in astronomy and space optics. He was invited by the Optical Society of America to edit special editions of Applied Optics and Optics and Photonics News on the HST first servicing mission. He was co-chair of the HST Independent Optical Review Panel that was charged with the determination of the optical parameters for the HST while on orbit.


H. John Wood

NASA/GSFC, Code 551

Greenbelt, MD 20771

Phone: 301-286-8278

FAX: 301-286-6063



<< Back to STSS06 Schedule Page >>