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Max Mutchler

Max Mutchler

I have been working at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) since Hubble was launched into orbit by the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1990. It was exhilarating to begin my career by sitting in the grandstand in the "VIP" area at the Kennedy Space Center when the Hubble mission began with a roaring blaze.

When I was in elementary school in a small blue-collar Wisconsin town, if someone could have shown me the future -- that my budding interest in space science (see school photo at the end of the page) would eventually lead me to that launch, and to a career working with the greatest telescope ever built -- I wouldn't have been able to believe it. I still have the same basic awe and giddy enthusiasm for learning about the universe that I had in elementary school: How did the universe begin? How it will end? What it is made of? How did intelligent life arise? Is there anybody else out there? Can mere mortals actually find specific answers to these Big Questions?

Max with the Columbia astronauts that installed Hubble's advanced camera (ACS).

This burning interest propelled me through many science and math courses which I otherwise would not have taken in high school and college. Who would ever take a Quantum Mechanics course when you could take a course about the Romantic poets instead? You'd have to have a pretty compelling reason. I kept studying science, but later on, I married a poet.

When I think about the fragile winding path that has led me to my current work with Hubble, I am very grateful (and as suprised as a schoolboy) that I have been able to spend my entire adult life contributing directly to such a profound and worthwhile endeavor.

I am currently a Science Data Analyst working mostly with Hubble's workhorse cameras: the venerable Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2), which was installed during the first Hubble servicing mission in December 1993, and the new Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), which was installed by Space Shuttle Columbia astronauts (photo above) in March 2002. These cameras have taken most of the fabulous images that have made Hubble famous.

My science projects have included studies of planetary nebulae in our Milky Way galaxy and the nearby Magellanic Clouds, deep field cosmology, and most recently a survey of nearby galaxies using yet another space telescope: the Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF), which was renamed Spitzer Space Telescope.

In my spare time, I am also involved in educational outreach. More about my work is available here: http://www.stsci.edu/~mutchler/

In recent collaborations with my wife, I discovered the most amazing objects in the universe: our two young children. They already know about the Sun and Moon, and someday probably, the stars and galaxies. But they seem to have a knack for rhyming, too. I do have many personal interests, hobbies, and aspirations outside of astronomy, but they are really now just secondary to (or a part of) this one: I want my children to know the joys of finding their own true path, their true loves, and following them as far and as long as their brief time in this beautiful and mysterious universe will allow.