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Former Blinn student, aerospace scientist to speak about new space telescope

Brenham native Michael Harrison working on telescope that will succeed Hubble

November 20, 2015

Michael HarrisonBlinn College alumnus and aerospace scientist Michael Harrison will return to both the Brenham and Bryan campuses Monday, Nov. 23, to speak about the James Webb Space Telescope.

Harrison is part of a team working on the Webb Telescope, the planned successor of the Hubble Space Telescope. Harrison will speak at 3 p.m. in the Brenham campus Student Center’s Janis Sneed Banquet Room and 5:30 p.m. in the Bryan campus Student Center’s Room E-120. Both events are free and open to the public.

“Those that attend will get a perspective of what is going on in the sciences, especially astronomy,” said Kenneth French, chemistry professor. “This is a real opportunity to be inspired.”

The Webb Telescope will be a large infrared telescope with a 6.5-meter primary mirror. The telescope will be launched on an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana in October 2018, and will be the premier observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide. It will study every phase in the history of the universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth.

A Brenham native who attended Blinn in 1975-76, Harrison earned his bachelor’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and studied aerospace architecture at the University of Southern California at the graduate school of engineering. Upon graduation, he began working at TRW Space Technology in Redondo Beach, Calif., and has spent more than 35 years in aerospace science, working primarily in the design of data acquisition and satellite guidance systems.

In addition to his work in aerospace science, Harrison is passionate about computing and programming as well as filmmaking. In 1996, Harrison presented a film he wrote, produced and directed at the International Festival of Film at Cannes, France. Harrison is also a dedicated astronomer, hand grinding his own telescope mirrors. He is a member of an astronomy club that regularly demonstrates its telescopes for area schools.